EOWTTA*:Q is for Quinoa

Saturday, January 23, 2010

(EOWTTA*=Eating Our Way Through the Alphabet)

Okay, still working on pronouncing this food properly - even looked it up on Forvo (where I discovered I’d been mangling crepe all along *blush*). The general consensus seems to be: keen-wah.

Quinoa is actually a seed and is related to beets and spinach. There is a bit of a buzz surrounding this kernel as it’s not only gluten-free, but also considered a complete protein food.

I’d first tasted quinoa a few years ago, at a little café just outside the Queen Victoria markets in Melbourne (why doesn’t Sydney have something similar?). Clueless at the time as to what the “grain” might be, I ordered a quinoa salad because it looked so intriguing. The taste of the seed itself was quite mild and nutty, but what really hooked me was the texture – a little bit soft, a little bit chewy and a little bit crunchy, sort of like cous-cous with more backbone. If cous-cous was The Narrator, quinoa would be Tyler Durden.

In its uncooked form, quinoa looks quite unassuming, but once cooked, little “tails” appear - these give the seed it’s crunch. The “tail” is actually the seed’s external germ (I think this is science speak for the part that germinates).

Apparently, quinoa fresh off the plant is really bitter because it contains saponins. The bitterness can be removed by soaking and rinsing (store-bought quinoa would have undergone this process.)

The simplest way to prepare quinoa is the absorption method (like cooking rice) – bring 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water to boil, lower heat and simmer until the water has been absorbed. I like to make sure the quinoa maintains its bite, so once the tails have “unfurled”, I drain it in a sieve. It’s all a matter of taste, some folks may prefer it softer and fluffier. The great thing about the quinoa is that I haven’t yet had it stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, as rice sometimes has the habit of doing. The smell of cooked quinoa is prominent though, and it can take a bit of getting used to. It’s not a bad scent, just quite strong. MC Senior can always tell if I’ve cooked quinoa the minute she walks through the door.

Usually, I make a roasted vegetable salad with this seed, but I’d heard it could make a good breakfast as well. As I’d confessed earlier, breakfast is not my favourite meal of the day, and I’m on a mini-mission to compile a list of food that might appeal in the morning.

After a quick search on the interweb, I discovered that a lot of quinoa breakfast dishes are just variations of porridge (oatmeal). While I don’t mind porridge it’s not really what I want to eat on a warm summer’s morning. Then I remembered a Jill Dupleix recipe for sweet, spiced cous-cous. That recipe calls for the cous-cous to be served alongside a sweet milk and stewed apricots. While I have nothing against milk, I don’t think I can face sweet milk first thing upon waking, so my version involves plain Greek yoghurt, lightly stewed peaches and the quinoa.

Because I’m really not a morning person (a consequence of staying up late being a nosy parker and reading other people’s blogs), breakfast options not only need to appeal to my tastebuds, they have to be quick to make and basically idiot-proof. Did this quinoa breakfast pass the test?

Surprisingly yes. If pre-prepared, the actual putting together of this breakfast takes about 2 minutes. And I ate it all up. I even had it the next day without bothering to heat it or add sugar – and actually preferred the less sweet, cold version.

Resource : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa

My quinoa breakfast

(Inspired by Jill Dupleix’s sweet spiced cous-cous)

Part 1
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

Cook the quinoa according package instructions, until al-dente. Store in airtight container in the fridge.

Part 2.
2 peaches
½ cup sugar (I used raw caster sugar)
½ cup water
(add spice eg cinnamon stick if desired)

Skin the peaches as you would a tomato – cut a cross in the pointy end, pour boiling water over it, leave for a minute or so, then remove and plunge into ice-water to stop it cooking. Peel and slice into segments.

Dissolve sugar and water in small saucepan over medium heat. Let simmer gently, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Slip the peaches in and simmer until tender (depends on ripeness of peaches). Remove with slotted spoon, set aside to cool. Simmer the syrup left in the bowl till it thickens a little (not too much though or it’ll turn into toffee). Pour over peaches, leave to cool, store covered in fridge.

Part 3
Thick unsweetened yohurt (I used Greek yoghurt)
Pinch of cinnamon
Sugar to taste

To serve, place about a cup of cooked quinoa into a serving bowl. Then top with the yoghurt and peaches for a simple, cold breakfast. Otherwise, warm the quinoa in the microwave (or steam if you’re anti-microwave). The aim is to take the edge off the chill and not to make it piping hot. Stir through about 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of cinnamon until the quinoa is thoroughly coated. Then serve with yoghurt and peaches.

Have a great weekend!


sarah @ syrupandhoney said...

What a lovely entry on quinoa! I'm a big fan of the grain but haven't had it for breakfast yet (I'm an oatmeal gal myself)...but you made it sound so delicious I might have to give it a try.

Pierre said...

hi shaz
quinoa is getting more and more popular in France now !! it is very good Pierre

Devon said...

My first quinoa experience was in Peri. I have had a book of the stuff in my cabinet for about two weeks with no ideas of what I should do with it. Maybe I'll give breakfast a try.

Trissa said...

I've heard about this super food as well although I've never tried it. Sounds interesting! I would love to see it in a salad as well!

Liz said...

I looove quinoa. I actually just tried a quinoa chocolate bar this past week. It was puffed quinoa (similar to puffed rice) and it gave the chocolate a nice crunch and nutty flavor.

Sarah Jio said...

Looks yummy! I'm the health and fitness blogger for Glamour magazine. Do you mind if I post this on my blog with the photo and link back to you? Thanks much! --Sarah

Ellie said...

I am yet to try quinoa. Heard all the goodness about it.

Vanille said...

I'm a total breakfast person, so I would gladly invite myself to your table and share this delicious breaky !
Actually, I often prepare a similar version with rolled oat. I should give a try with quinoa...

shaz said...

Hi Sarah - I like oatmeal too when the weather's cold, but I am really into quinoa at the moment (I seem to develop ingredient obsessions)

That sounds great Pierre.

Let me know how your quinoa experience turns out :) Devon. It's really great with roasted vegetables too (check out Sarah from Syrup and Honey above, she just made a quinoa salad) :)

Hi Trissa - it's really great in a salad, treat it like cous-cous.

Wow Liz, puffed quinoa in chocolate sounds so sensational! Must try to find some.

Thanks so much sarah, I would be honoured if you'd like to feature this post, cheers.

Hi ellie, worth a try, and pretty easy to find nowadays too.

:) And I'll give your rolled oats version a try Vanille :)

grace said...

i'm such a fan of quinoa, and not just because of its nifty appearance and many health benefits. i think it tastes great, and it'd be even better combined with sweet peaches and the wonderful spice known as cinnamon. enticing breakfast, shaz!

Hungry Dog said...

I'm relatively new to quinoa too and like it very much. Haven't done anything very exciting with it yet but I'll keep this good idea in mind!

tigerfish said...

Wholesome breakfast! Check.

shaz said...

Thanks Grace - cinnamon makes anything better :)

Hi HUngry Dog, I've only really made salads and this, oh and one time we had it as a base for tagine - still lots of experimenting potential.

Cheers Tigerfish:)