Why we love Quinoa!
Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wah’ is a wheat-free alternative that is grown in South America. It has been around for thousands of years and was a staple in the diet of the Incas and their descendants. Quinoa comes in two different types, red and white and interestingly, comes from the same family as beets, chard and spinach.
It’s nutritional benefits far outweigh that of bulgur wheat, rice and couscous as it is a complete source of protein, this means that it contains all of the essential amino acids needed in the human body, including lysine and isoleucine which are normally not found in any other grains. This is great news for vegetarians and vegans as quite often it can be hard to find meat or dairy alternative proteins.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients important in maintaining homeostasis in the human body. Commonly known for building muscle, it is the basis for our ligaments, tendons, collagen, hair and our skin! It also plays a huge role in immune function, hormone production and transportation of vitamins, minerals and oxygen in the body.
Apart from being a great source of protein, Quinoa is also high in calcium, magnesium, manganese, B vitamins and vitamin E. It is also one of the least allergenic grains, ideal for those who have certain inflammatory bowel issues as it contains anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Being a natural source of dietary fibre it is slowly digested through the gastrointestinal system which makes it a great low GI option, this means more energy for longer!
A 100g serving of quinoa provides: 368 calories 14g protein 6g fat 64g carbohydrate 7g fibre
What else is great about Quinoa? It tastes great and is easy to cook with! Here are a couple of simple and delicious recipes you can whip up in the kitchen at home.
Watermelon & spinach super salad
Quinoa, toasted pumpkin seeds, feta and ripe watermelon make a fabulous and filling vegetarian supper that counts as 3 of your 5-a-day.
PREP: 10 MINS / COOK: 20 MINS / EASY / SERVES: 2
- 100 grams of Quinoa
- 2 tbsp of pumpkin seeds
- ½ small watermelon- skin and seeds removed, but into chunks
- 80 grams of baby spinach
- 1 ripe avocado
- ½ bunch of fresh mint- finely chopped
- 50 grams of fetta- crumbled
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 punnet of salad cress
- Rinse the quinoa, then put it in a pan with a fitted lid and cover with 200ml water. Cook, covered, over a medium heat for 15 mins or until fluffy and the water has been absorbed. Don’t worry if it catches on the bottom at little. Fork through to separate the grains , then leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over a medium heat and toast the pumpkin seeds for 1 min or until they start to pop. Tip into a serving bowl or on a platter with the watermelon, spinach, avocado, mint and feta. Toss through the quinoa , then squeeze over the lime juice with a pinch of seasoning. Top with the cress and serve.
Quinoa risotto with beans, lemon and Parmesan
This risotto uses a mix of rice and quinoa to make it more nutritious. Quinoa is a good source of protein and is rich in dietary fibre, which is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. It is also high in manganese, and a good source of phosphorus, magnesium and folate
PREP: 15 MINS / COOK: 35 MINS / EASY / SERVES: 4
- 300 grams podded fresh or frozen broad (fava) beans
- 1 litre (4 cups) low-salt vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tsp thyme leaves
- 150 grams arborio rice
- 100 grams (1⁄2 cup) white quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 80 ml (1⁄3 cup) white wine
- 140 grams (1 cup) podded fresh or frozen green peas
- 25 grams (¼ cup) finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- mint leaves, to garnish
- Cook the broad beans in a saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute. Refresh under cold running water. Drain. Peel off the skins and discard. Set aside.
- Put the stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep the stock at a simmer.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and thyme leaves and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the rice and white quinoa and stir for 1–2 minutes or until the grains are well coated in the oil. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.
- Gradually add the simmering stock, a cup at a time, stirring constantly and making sure the stock is absorbed before you add more. This will take 15–20 minutes; the rice should be al dente yet creamy.
- Stir in the peas and broad beans. Simmer for 2–3 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender, then remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and lemon zest. Cover and set aside for 3 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve garnished with mint, with extra Parmesan.
- For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free stock.