Tiny, bead-shaped, with a slightly bitter flavour and firm texture, quinoa may not be a household name just yet, but it is set for a starry future - as far as grains go. The Incas have known it all along, for thousands of years regarding it as the 'mother grain' as they grew it high up in the Andes.
Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is a complete protein - containing all eight of the essential amino acids. It has been recognised by the United Nations as a supercrop for its health benefits: packed with dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also gluten-free and easy to digest. The facts suggest it is close to a perfect ingredient as you can get.
Quinoa is easy to prepare and its fluffy texture and slightly nutty flavour make it an excellent alternative to white rice or couscous. When cooked, its grains quadruple in size and become almost translucent.
Quinoa can be prepared much like rice. It should usually be rinsed or soaked before use to remove its bitter coating, so check packet instructions. Bring two cups of water to the boil to one cup of grain, cover, simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ should have a slight bite to it (al dente).
Store quinoa in an airtight container in the fridge.
Quinoa can be used in the same way as rice and is great in stuffings, pilafs and breakfast cereals.
Try barley or oats.