Quinoa- worth a second look

2123-emily blog-1.jpgPhoto courtesy: AFP

We ran a piece about the growing popularity of quinoa in the paper a few weeks ago (article here), but I think it warrants a second mention. In short, this ancient grain (technically a seed) makes a brilliant addition to any store cupboard.

Not only is quinoa very healthy - gluten-free, high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol and packed with vitamins and minerals - it is also wonderfully versatile. Quinoa flour can be used to as an alternative to regular flour when baking (available to buy at Spinneys and LuLu Hypermarkets) and the grains themselves can form the basis of a number of dishes, from porridge to risotto.

Quinoa salad makes a nutritious, tasty, lunchbox-friendly midday meal and is very easy to prepare. When you've got a bit of time, it makes sense to get ahead and cook up a large batch and keep it in the fridge. Then midweek, when you're pushed for time, all you need to do is add fresh ingredients, which you can vary each day to prevent things from getting boring.

There really are endless combinations here, but some of my favourite additions are: feta cheese, halloumi, apricots, sultanas, pomegranate seeds, radishes, fresh herbs (particularly mint, coriander and parsley), blanched green peas, lemon juice and zest, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms sauteed in garlic.

This is also a great opportunity for using up leftovers; even if you've only a got a handful or two of chicken or roasted vegetables, the quinoa will add enough bulk to make a satisfying lunch.

I think that the "steam and set" method advocated by Carolyn Hemming and Patricia Green, the authors of the best-selling cookbook Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood is the best way to cook quinoa. You simply tip a cup or two of quinoa into a pan, pour over double the volume of water, bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, keep the lid on and leave to set for a further 5-10 minutes

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2125-photo-8.JPGI had the broccoli and roasted tomato salad for lunch today (picture above, recipe below); if you don't have time to cook the tomatoes, you could of course use raw.

Quinoa salad with broccoli and roasted tomatoes

Serves 2

For the slow-roasted tomatoes:

200g cherry tomatoes

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

For the salad:

100g (1/2 cup) quinoa

1/2 head broccoli, separated into florets

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

2 radishes, thinly sliced

75g feta cheese, crumbled

For the dressing:

1/2 lemon, juice only

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 100C/fan 80C/gas 1/4. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half horizontally and tip into a large bowl. Add the garlic, drizzle over a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and black pepper and mix well. Arrange the tomatoes on a baking tray cut side up and cook for 2-21/2 hours until semi-dried. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Cook the quinoa using the steam and set method described above, then leave to cool to room temperature.

While the quinoa cools, cook the broccoli in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes, or until tender. Drain well.

Mix together the quinoa, broccoli, spring onions, radishes, feta cheese and roasted tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper.

Whisk the lemon juice and olive oil together and pour over the salad just before you are ready to eat.

Published: October 9, 2011 04:00 AM

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