Extreme Cuisine – Quinoa

By / Food / November 30th, 2009 / 1

This is it – the mother of all grains. No, really, it is. Quinoa (keen-wa) is an ancient grain cultivated and enjoyed by the Incas about 3000 years ago. It’s a tiny, round seed (a lot like millet) that is purported to be among the healthiest of grains because it contains huge amounts of fibre and protein, and is relatively low in gluten. Although originally hailing from the Andes Mountains in South America, quinoa is now grown throughout Canada and the US.

This is not a grain that you’ll find at your friendly neighbourhood bulk store. Look for it in health food stores, specialty food stores or the gourmet/organic section of your supermarket. Beware: it’s priced accordingly. A small bag might run you $4 or more. But, in its defence, I have to say that a little really does go a long way. Those tiny balls expand to four times their size when cooked.

Quinoa has a very delicate flavour that’s reminiscent of nuts – unless it hasn’t been rinsed. Then, it’s just bitter. The seeds are naturally coated with saponin (a sudsy substance that the locals would use as soap). Rinse it several times before you cook it.

Toasted Quinoa

Pour 1 cup quinoa into a fine strainer; rinse thoroughly under cool running water. Place quinoa into a large frying pan over medium heat; cook, shaking pan occasionally, until quinoa dries and turns golden brown. Let cool. Use in the following recipes.

Spicey Hot Cereal

Serves 4

2 cups water

1 cup quinoa, rinsed or toasted

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup raisins

Brown sugar, to taste (optional)

1. Boil water in a medium-sized pot; stir in quinoa and raisins. Cover and simmer gently on low heat until liquid is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and add cinnamon and brown sugar.

Quinoa Pilaf

Serves 4

1/3 cup bacon, chopped

Olive oil (optional)

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1/3 cup onion, chopped

1 cup beef stock

1/2 cup toasted quinoa

1/3 cup carrot, shredded

1/3 cup, green pepper, chopped

1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Spoon off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat (or add olive oil if necessary).

2. Add mushrooms and onion to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are golden. Add broth, quinoa, carrots and green pepper; bring to a boil.

3. Cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Take off heat, remove lid, and let stand 2 minutes. Stir with fork to separate grains. Spoon onto serving dish; sprinkle with cooked bacon.

Quinoa and Wholewheat Muffins

Makes 10 muffins

1/3 cup toasted quinoa

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp wholewheat flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 large egg, slightly beaten

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup milk

1. Set aside 2 teaspoons of the quinoa. In a bowl, combine remaining quinoa, all-purpose flour, wholewheat flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, butter and milk.

2. Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture; stir just to combine. Spoon batter into greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling each to the top. Sprinkle with reserved quinoa.

3. Bake in a 375°F oven until tops of muffins are golden, about 30 minutes.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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