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12 things you should know about quinoa

quinoa roast cauliflower & quinoa salad

I’m always a little suspicious of anything that gets touted as a ‘superfood’. Which is why it took me a while to get around to trying quinoa.

My first encounter was with puffed quinoa as part of an exploration of new breakfast cereals. Not very inspiring unless you come from the school of thought that cereal should resemble styrofoam and be useful as a packing material.

But with my Dad’s gluten intolerance I decided to give the whole grains another chance. And I’m glad I did.

12 things you should know about quinoa

1. it’s delicious
No matter how ‘good for you’ a food is, I don’t include it in my diet unless it passes the taste test. Puffed quinoa won’t be starring on stonesoup anytime soon but the whole grains definitely make it. Slightly nutty and grainy, they’re something I could keep eating and eating.

2. it has a funny pronunciation
I always feel a tiny bit pretentious when I correct people but apparently it likes to be referred to as ‘keen-wah’.

3. it’s high in protein
A big positive for vegetarians as I’ve learned recently. It’s also pretty good on iron and fibre, which gets the nutritionists excited.

4. it’s gluten free
With my Dad being gluten intolerant, I’m always appreciative of new options to cook for him. He’s pretty keen on the rolled quinoa flakes for breakfast as well.

5. it needs washing before use
I read somewhere that the surface of quinoa contains a chemical called saponin that has a bitter soapy taste. Most commercial quinoa will already be washed and have the saponin removed but it’s a good idea to rinse it just before you use it in case there are residues.

6. it comes in different colours
Just like grapes, quinoa comes in different varieties. The most common is white, but there are also red and black. I’ve only ever come across the white variety.

7. it comes in different forms
Just like corn, it can be puffed or rolled into flakes or you can buy it whole.

8. it looks like a grain but is actually a seed

9. it has an interesting texture
The thing I love about quinoa is it’s texture. Something a little like barley with its chewiness, it also has a light fluffiness akin to well prepared couscous.

10. it’s better if you cook it
One of my first experiment with quinoa I just rinsed it in boiling water, tossed it in dressing and used it in a salad. It was edible but a little weird.

11. you can also eat the leaves
I’m yet to find a souce of fresh quinoa or it’s leaves but if you do apparently the leaves are edible. Something like chard or silverbeet.

12. it’s becoming more readily available
In Australia it’s even available in the ‘health food’ section of our supermarkets. Am sure any health food store worth its lentils would either already stock quinoa or be able to source it for you.

roast cauliflower & quinoa salad

[5 ingredients]
warm salad of roast cauliflower & quinoa

serves 2

Inspired by Cath Claringbold in the Good Weekend.

You could use all sorts of soft cheese in this recipe. Ricotta or goats curd would be lovely but I had some bocconcini that needed eating up and I really enjoyed it’s slightly chewy texture to contrast the cauliflower & quinoa. If you were wanting to go cheese free some roasted almonds would be a great substitution.

Wonderfully satisfying as a main course salad on it’s own, it would also work well without the cheese as a side dish to fish or roast chook.

I used tomato paste to flavour and slightly colour the quinoa but you could ditch it and replace the water with vegetable or chicken stock if you liked.

If you can’t find quinoa, you could substitute in your favourite cooked grain such as couscous, barley or brown rice. You’ll need to adjust the amount of water and cooking times though.

1/2 large cauliflower (approx 350g / 12oz)
1/2 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 bunch chives, finely chopped
large handful bocconcini, torn into bight size pieces

Preheat oven to 200C. Cut cauliflower into bight size little trees. Place in a roasting dish, drizzle with some olive oil, season and roast, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower is golden on the edges and cooked through.

Rinse quinoa well and place in a medium saucepan with 1 cup water and the tomato paste. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed. Season.

Divide cauliflower between two warm plates, scatter over quinoa, cheese and chives.

roast cauliflower

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{ 304 comments… add one }
  • Michelle Pinner 11 April, 2013, 10:29 pm

    What a great idea! I am definitely going to try that. I often cook risotto and instead of arborio or other risotto rice I use quinoa instead. Delicious!!

  • Joe 12 April, 2013, 4:58 pm

    I think you mean ‘bite-sized’ pieces. ‘Bight’ sized could cause some problems…although I guess it depends how many people you’re feeding.

  • Lisa 14 April, 2013, 10:06 pm

    I’ve had quinoa sitting in my cupboard for an eternity, a little scared to delve in and try cooking it. Finally did it tonight. Dead easy. Super delicious. I roasted the cauliflower with some cumin and chilli, and served with yoghurt, parsley and coriander instead of bocconcini and chives. Total winner!

  • Matt 24 April, 2013, 6:30 pm

    A saponin is actually a whole class of molecules that were originally named this way because they foamed like soap when shaken in water. Somewhat ironically, the process of making soap from fat is called saponification, but the soap molecules share no structural resemblance to saponins!

    (I’m in school for biochemistry/chemistry and) I didn’t even know some of this until I double-checked myself against Wikipedia. I would say go look it up if you’re interested, but both articles (on saponification and saponins) are written as if they have the sole purpose of excluding people who haven’t studied chemistry.

  • Lisa M 12 May, 2013, 12:15 am

    Heat 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil and one minced garlic clove about 1 min. Add shredded kale until it is wilted, 2-3 min. Add cooked quinoa, salt and pepper. I could eat this every day.

  • sally 8 June, 2015, 7:00 am

    I just had Quinoa for the first time ,it was frozen and on sale at the local super market what a wonderful experience with frozen shrimp after co0king the quinoa in the micro wave I thawed the shrimp under cold water mixed the both togeather and I had a wonderful meal could not stop eating

  • sandu 24 June, 2015, 9:42 am

    I made Quinoa last night, Instead of using stock or water, I used coconut Milk. and servce with Spicy Barramundi

  • Ms Ange 30 June, 2015, 1:14 pm

    I cooked quinoa for the first time this week and must say I am totally addicted already.

    I made a salad with pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, fresh coriander and spring onions and dressed it with lime juice. The first night I served it with grilled haloumi and the second with poached salmon “san choy boa” style. Delicious.

    I love cauli so am keen to try your recipe too.

    Off to check out the rest of your blog xoxox

  • Edgar 5 July, 2015, 7:37 am

    I’m intrigued with “8. it looks like a grain but is actually a seed” Is there any type of grain that ISN’T a seed?

    • Mahdi 7 April, 2016, 4:45 pm

      No, but seeds are not grains.

      • Sandi 7 June, 2016, 4:46 pm

        Anything that results from a pollinated flower and can reproduce the plant/bush/tree from which it came is a seed. That category has many different sub-types within which are shared characteristics specific to that sub-type. Grains are one of them, as are nuts. For example, grains can be dried and stored for relatively long periods, as can any of the flours made from them. Nuts can’t be dried, and have a limited storage times because the oils in them go rancid. One of the reason ‘seeds’ is not a good label for either.

  • Jenny Crooks 7 August, 2015, 2:35 am

    I have j6st gobe on a diet , a friend of mine made a meal and put this on as side dish love it so now needvideas

  • Ross McDowell 21 August, 2015, 10:17 pm

    I am amazed that the Grammar Police did not comment that wrong was wrong and should have been the adverb wrongly

    • Qwerty 19 February, 2016, 9:40 pm

      LOL!! I know right?!
      I picked up on so many errors too. But hey, when you’re here to read about nutrition and diet, who has time to correct grammar?!

  • asherosiris 29 August, 2015, 9:29 pm

    Lol did you really you get comment on your spelling mistake. I think that was the OCD kicking in and they just had to inform you! Anyways thanks for the post, very informative.

    I soak my quinoa in organic garlic and herb stock. Also contains the whole amino profile :-), from my knowledge was not mentioned on the post but a worthy addition.

  • longjok 9 October, 2015, 8:38 pm

    Wheat..looks like a grain, but is actually a seed!
    ditto oats, rye, rice ,corn etc.
    point 8 tells me all that went before & after is B.S.!
    Define seed and start again.

    • jules 19 October, 2015, 2:18 pm

      If you’re going to get caught up with definitions longjok.. this probably isn’t the best blog for you
      All the best
      Jules

    • goodoldrebel 20 October, 2015, 11:05 am

      I think that this grain is really a type of corn instead of some “magic food”.South America makes money off the naïve yuppies

    • MK 4 March, 2016, 7:44 am

      Actually, ‘longjok’, she is correct. ‘Grains’ are the seeds of grassy-type plants, which quinoa is NOT. Quinoa is classified as a pseudo-cereal, with seeds that can be milled into flours, etc., and used in essentially the same ways as grains, but since it does not come from a grassy plant, it is not considered to be a grain; it is a seed. It is related to beets and chard, not wheat, barley, and oats…

  • Maddy 21 October, 2015, 1:05 am

    Lol…. I was googling about Quinoa and came accross this page….

    Jules… Thanks for sharing your knowledge about Quinoa… As I am a vegetarian.. it is something that I am thinking of including in my diet from now and the cauliflower recipe looks yummy!!!

    Others….are you here for correcting people’s grammar?? just read the blog for the purpose of why it was written!! for learning more about Quinoa!! Stop acting like my phone’s annoying Auto-correct!

    I am gonna definitely try this one :) may be even try new recipes… with Indian curries :D

    Thanks!

  • margaret 15 November, 2015, 9:04 am

    What a great magazine. Would love some free reciepies.x

  • Kat 6 December, 2015, 5:04 pm

    “Bight”? ?

  • Patricia Michaels 30 December, 2015, 7:07 am

    I have been eating quinua for a while now, I find it not only delicious as well as a good source of supplements, I have a friend that is importing it directly from Bolivia if anyone is interested to buy or distributed please let me know my email address is
    patomichaels@yahoo.com

  • Liz Newbury 20 January, 2016, 10:43 am

    Jules, thanks so much for this great information. I have not tried quinoa yet but have wanted to give it a go. I’m always hesitant to try something new and “healthy” for the exact reasons you’ve already stated. With that being said, we tend to eat way too much white rice in our home and are looking for alternatives. Would quinoa be one of those possible alternatives for rice? Thanks again.

    • jules 29 January, 2016, 10:48 am

      Absolutely Liz.. it’s a great white rice alternative…

  • Fibi 8 February, 2016, 3:52 am

    I asked Google about quinoa, and your thread came up. I was recently diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, so anything new is of interest to me. I will have to try the recipe, it looks quite tasty.

  • peter olding 8 February, 2016, 8:57 am

    Trying to eat a bit better

  • Regina Thompson Xadu 18 February, 2016, 9:10 am

    Prepared quinoa for the let time. It was garlic and herb. It was delicious. My take is if it can substitute a starch I’m on board.

  • MK 4 March, 2016, 6:57 am

    Another site I was on stated that you should NOT eat quinoa uncooked, because humans cannot digest it properly (uncooked) and you could experience health problems from large starch (?) molecules ending up in your bloodstream!

    So, please, cook your quinoa! ?
    .

  • Melissa 12 March, 2016, 2:35 pm

    As a coeliac, I have to be super cautious with regards to what I eat and only recently learned that quinoa is gluten-free. Being bored with rice (I mostly eat brown rice), I saw precooked, microwavable red quinoa in my local supermarket, so grabbed a bag. I didn’t see the cooking instructions on the bag regarding microwave and as I don’t still own a microwave, simply put water into my pressure cooker and cooked the quinoa in the bag until it was hot (without the lid on the pressure cooker). It worked well, the quinoia tasted interesting and pleasant (I had it with spicy grilled chicken) and will be doing it again. As I have an aversion to cauliflower, I will try your recipe but substitute with broccoli. :)

  • Janet 10 April, 2016, 10:37 am

    Oops! Just read MK’s comments about uncooked quinoa. I purchased some packaged 3 mix certified organic late last year and have been adding a teaspoon to my breakfast cereal daily with no apparent ill effects. Directions For Use did contain soaking and boiling but no warning about the alternative.

    • jules 18 April, 2016, 3:34 pm

      Glad to hear your ok Janet!

  • linda willy 14 April, 2016, 7:23 am

    Quinoa carries all nine amino acids like meat protein! Without the cholesterol and fat!! Bonus!!!

    • jules 18 April, 2016, 2:15 pm

      You know Linda cholesterol and fat are actually good things… But I love quinoa anyway :)

      • Fred Avery 18 July, 2016, 12:54 pm

        We make our own cholesterol and superior fats are found in plant based foods. Which leaves it up to ethics vs taste. Why cause suffering when there is no need? There is nothing in meat and dairy that isn’t found in a more bio available form from plant based sources. Anyone who says otherwise has been conditioned to believe so, is following cultural habits blindly or, perhaps more so, loves the taste and is not very imaginative in trying other things. Good science [not for financial gains, but rather truth], shows this to be the case.
        Quinoa here I come!
        For your consideration, re:Health
        http://soilandhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/02/0201hyglibcat/020127shelton.III/020127.toc.htm

  • coralie 25 June, 2016, 5:19 am

    I don’t mind eating quinoa as a breakfast cereal with yogurt, banana & other fruit. It a very good face cleanser. Its good for gravity sickness and other things. If you go to south America it is apart of there diet and that’s why they are healthy.

  • Lynelle Bryson 7 July, 2016, 3:59 pm

    I am allergic to corn. It is a trigger food for my severe migraines….I really would like to try this super food ass I’m trying to eat healthier…so far I have read up about it and it says it’s in the beat family. Can anyone tell me a definite no to the corn family ???

    • jules 19 July, 2016, 2:11 pm

      Sorry Lynelle.. Not sure if there’s a relationship to corn

  • Lynelle Bryson 7 July, 2016, 4:00 pm

    And of course that would be as not the other word

  • Ella 8 July, 2016, 4:49 am

    There are two cultivars of quinoa that gluten sensitive people should avoid. These are Pasankalla (red) and Ayacuchana (Peruvian). These two cultivars have produced gluten type reactions in some people.

    • jules 19 July, 2016, 2:10 pm

      Didn’t know that Ella.. Thx for sharing!

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