I was introduced to quinoa on my first visit to organic/health food store and vegan/vegetarian restaurant Sweet Cherubim on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, BC. I like the sound of healthy foods, even though I am no expert, and was told of all the great health benefits of this grain, so I gave their quinoa salad a try and was in food heaven. It was fresh, light, and just plain delicious. Since then, I have tried to substitute all recipes that use rice or cous cous with quinoa. It hasn’t been very easy to do this in the UK as quinoa was not always easy to find, but somehow in the last few months I have started finding it in large grocery store chains (Sainsbury's, Asda, Waitrose, Co-Op etc) and not just health food stores. This means that it is quite affordable (although I did find some independent health food stores had it very reasonably priced). I also find that it has been getting a lot of mention in magazines and various articles so I guess the Brits are starting to try it out!
As mentioned, an easy way to use quinoa is to just substitute the “rice” ingredient in any/most recipes. My favorite dish where I apply this “rule” is sushi rolls. They are really easy and quick to make and I have even made a silly little instructional video to show you how (sorry for the really poor quality):
Other dishes I have used quinoa in is curries. I add a little bit of turmeric to the water that I cook the quinoa in and, as it simmers, the turmeric (which also seems to have many health benefits) is absorbed into the quinoa. Pile your curry on top and voila!
And yet another dish that is fantastic with quinoa: Greek “Yemista” or roasted stuffed vegetables. I used a recipe from a book called Cretan Cooking (by Maria and Nikos Psilakis) (see image below - click to enlarge) that my mother gave me. It doesn't say to pre cook the quinoa or rice but I did pre cook it as I found it easier to work with. I also used dried mint and parsley as I didn't have any fresh in stock. I also omitted the butter and the grated cheese. If you are a meat-eater, you can always add ground beef to this recipe and you will find many Yemista recipes online with ground beef in the ingredients.
So there you have it: A South American grain used in a Japanese dish, an Indian dish and a Greek dish. Quinoa really is versatile.
What is your favorite way to use quinoa?
And just in case you have no clue how to pronounce the word “quinoa” (I sure didn’t the first time I saw it), here you go:
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!