High in fibre, quinoa is also a source of protein

THIS LITTLE GRAIN has a big nutritional impact. It makes a good gluten-free substitute for couscous and bulgur wheat, but that’s certainly not all…

1. Rice alternative

Cook it plain as an accompaniment to curries and stews. Rinse well, cover with water or reduced-salt bouillon or stock (usually one part quinoa to two parts liquid – check the pack), cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15–20 min until all the liquid is absorbed, then remove from the heat and leave it for a few minutes to finish cooking in its own heat, keeping the lid on. Fluff with a fork and serve.

2. Soups of substance

It makes a good base for soup. Try this: slice and sauté 1 onion, 1 carrot and 1 celery stick in a little olive oil, then add 750ml reduced-salt vegetable stock, around 100g rinsed quinoa and a drained tin of cannellini beans. Simmer for 20 min or until everything is tender. Add plenty of chopped kale or spinach and cook until tender. Blend, if desired. Quinoa also makes a good gluten-free alternative to pasta in minestrone soup.

3. Roasted veg filling

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Combine cooked quinoa (see no 1) with reduced-fat feta, herbs, garlic, unsalted nuts, cherry tomatoes and anything else you fancy. Stuff the mixture into hollowed out whole peppers or halved and hollowed out courgettes, marrow or aubergines. Roast the filled veg for 15–20 min until everything is soft.

4. Gluten-free stuffing

For an alternative to traditional sage and onion stuffing, combine 200g cooked quinoa (see no 1) with ½ diced onion, 2 garlic cloves, a few toasted, chopped walnuts, 2tsp low-fat spread, a handful of parsley and sage and some black pepper. Use it to stuff the neck end of a chicken in the normal way or bake it separately in a small tray to serve with any roast.

5. Super-charged breakfast

For a change to your usual porridge, follow the basic recipe for quinoa (see no 1), but replace the water with semi-skimmed milk. Add fresh fruit, a little honey, vanilla or unsalted nuts for a filling, nutrient-rich breakfast. Alternatively, try cooking quinoa in reduced-fat coconut milk and add chopped fresh mango once cooked for a decadent-tasting tropical start to the day.

A source of protein

‘Quinoa isn’t a true grain like wheat or rye, which helps to explain why it’s noticeably higher in protein than these foods,’ says HFG nutritionist Amanda Ursell. ‘One serving (50g uncooked) quinoa has 154kcal and 7g protein, about the amount of protein you find in an egg, whereas 50g uncooked rice has less than 4g protein.’

 

6. Cinnamon muffins

These muffins are a sweet, tasty and healthy treat, ideal for lunchboxes or afternoon tea. For 12 muffins, put 75g rinsed quinoa in a small saucepan and cover with 200ml boiling water. Bring back to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 15 min or until the water is absorbed. Uncover and cool for 10 min. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Mix 300g plain flour, 150g light muscovado sugar, 2tsp baking powder, 1tsp cinnamon or mixed spice and 125g sultanas in a large bowl. Stir through the cooled quinoa. In a small bowl, whisk 175ml skimmed milk, 1 beaten egg and 1tsp vanilla extract. Add to the flour and quinoa mixture and mix well to combine. Spoon into a lightly oiled 12-hole muffin tin and bake for 25–30 min until springy to the touch. Cool in the tin for 10 min before leaving to cool completely on a wire rack. These taste great toasted and drizzled with a little runny honey.

7. Spicy brunch

To serve 1, gently fry ½ sliced onion and 1 crushed garlic clove in a little spray oil over a medium heat. Add 1tsp cumin and fry until you start to smell its aroma. Stir in 100g cooked quinoa (see no 1) and 1 chopped tomato, then put the mixture on a plate and top with a poached egg.

Fibre plus iron

Quinoa is also a good source of fibre, with 3g in a serving, while still being pretty low in fat (just 3g in total). Another plus is the iron it brings to a meal: one serving adds a respectable 3.9mg towards your daily 14mg total, along with over a quarter of your daily 200mcg target of the B vitamin folate, which we need for healthy nerves.

8. Side salad

As it soaks up liquids so well, quinoa makes a good base for salads served with a light dressing. Mix 3 diced tomatoes, ½ diced cucumber, 4 chopped spring onions and a handful of chopped fresh parsley with 500g cooked quinoa (see no 1). Make a dressing with 3 parts lemon juice to 1 part olive oil, season with black pepper and serve with the salad. Lovely with grilled fish or chicken.

9. Toasted or roasted

Toasting quinoa enhances its nutty qualities – perfect for granola. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°/gas 4. Lightly spray a baking tray with oil. Mix 200g cooked quinoa with 1tbsp maple syrup, 1tbsp olive oil and 2tbsp chopped mixed nuts. Spread thinly on the prepared baking tray and roast in the oven for 15 min, stirring the mixture once or twice during cooking to make sure it doesn’t burn. Let it cool completely, then break it up and store in an airtight jar, ready to serve with low-fat natural yogurt.

10. Easy pilaf

Fry a chopped onion in a little olive oil with some crushed garlic, then add sliced mushrooms and cook until softened and cooked through. Stir through some cooked quinoa (see no 1), season with black pepper and top with chopped fresh parsley.