I had my first taste of Quinoa in a Marks & Spencer’s ready-made grain salad with chickpeas, couscous and a variety of other yummy add-ins. I didn’t know what it was, but I liked it. A few vegetarian and vegan friends also mentioned cooking with it and I realised I had been blissfully unaware of quinoa as a grain option. So, in true nerdy fashion, I did a little wikipedia-ing. Originating from the Andes, the Incas believed quinoa to be sacred, calling it the “mother of all grains”. During Spanish colonisation of the area, quinoa was forbidden and the Incas had to subsist on wheat as their grain.
Every time I asked one of my vegetarian friends how to cook quinoa, they looked at me as if I were painfully stupid and informed me that you cooked it up just like rice. I’d like to take this time to admit that I am the worst rice-cooker, ever. My rice is always over-cooked in a globby mess or under-cooked and brittle to the taste. I had a friend in college who owned a rice cooker and I found myself asking her to make me perfect, slightly-sticky rice. We’d cook together and end up sharing our meals, I miss the dorm-kitchen companionship. Since then, I barely try or I use (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) boil-in-bag rice. So, for anyone that is a little curious about where to start with the mother of all grains, I thought I’d include a recipe of how to cook it.
Quinoa Recipe- Yields about 5 or 6 cups of cooked quinoa
- 2 cups quinoa
- 4 cups water
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer (if your quinoa is smaller than your strainer, line it with paper towel and pour through- water will get through, but quinoa will be trapped). Make sure to rinse thoroughly, as there is a slightly bitter taste if you don’t.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the quinoa with the water until it boils.
- Reduce heat and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
- Quinoa is finished when it has turned slightly transparent and you can see a spiral in the grain. It will have a “pop” in each bite (I know that sounds crazy, but you will know what you mean when you try it).
Now, I will post a recipe using quinoa here tomorrow, but for now let me say that quinoa is a very malleable grain. You can use it as a side of rice, a pilaf, in stir-frys, etc. The sky is kind of the limit. But if you want a delicious starting recipe, check back in tomorrow. And if you’re lucky enough to be near to a M&S and want a no-cook option, try some of their delicious grain salads. Yum.