What is Quinoa?


WHAT IS QUINOA? You’ve probably come across quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) in a café or as an ingredient in a food product or recipe. You might have even seen this South American ‘superfood’ on the shelf in a food store. You may have asked yourself, what the heck is it and what do I do with it? It’s a seed from a leafy plant related to Swiss chard and beets and not grass like other grains. Fortunately for those with coeliac disease it is gluten free. It is high in high quality protein (providing all essential amino acids), low in fat (2g/100g) and has a low GI (53) so it’s good for helping to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Eating wholegrains like quinoa is good for your heart. A very recent example of research supporting this is a Danish study of almost 55,000 people that found the highest consumers of wholegrains had a 25% lower risk of heart attack than the lowest consumers. For your heart’s sake, it might be time to give quinoa a try. It’s quick and easy to cook – add 2 parts water to one of quinoa, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cover to cook by absorption for about 10–12 minutes until tender. When cooked, quinoa expands into fluffy little balls with a cute U-shaped slither of shell attached. It comes in white, red and black varieties so it adds lovely colour and texture to meals- use the red or black if you want quinoa that keeps it shape better. Serve as an accompaniment to meat dishes instead of rice, add it to soups or salads (try quinoa tabouleh), or use as a base for a Bircher-style breakfast with yoghurt, fruit and nuts or try Anneka’s zucchini, quinoa and egg slice. It’s really easy to include this new wholegrain food from South America into your meals, wherever you are. Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author, consultant, cook, food enthusiast and mother who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious.


Zucchini, quinoa and egg slice

This simple savoury slice makes a fabulous light meal accompanied by a green salad or a perfect snack – a nutritious addition to any school or work lunch box. Serves: 8 with salad as a light meal or 12 as a snack.
⅓ cup white quinoa,rinsed as per packet instructionsZucchini slice
⅓ cup water
1 tbsp (20ml) olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
100g (3½oz) shortcut bacon rashers, chopped
350g (12oz) zucchini (courgettes), coarsely grated
5 eggs, lightly whisked
40g (1½oz) finely shredded parmesan
½ cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup self-raising flour
75g (2½oz) feta, coarsely crumbled (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Lightly grease an 18 x 28cm/7 x 11in (base measurement) shallow slice tin and then line the base and two long sides with one piece of non-stick baking paper. • Place the quinoa and water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover the saucepan and simmer gently for 12 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the onion and bacon, stirring occasionally, for 5–8 minutes or until the onion is soft and starting to colour. • Transfer to a large bowl. Add the quinoa, zucchini, eggs, parmesan, parsley and pepper to the onion mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the flour and stir to combine. • Spoon the mixture into the lined tin and use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface. Sprinkle with the feta if using. • Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Stand in the pan for 5 minutes before turning onto a cutting board. Serve warm or cold with a salad for a light meal or as a snack. • This slice will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Per serve
885kJ/ 210 calories; 14g protein; 12g fat (includes 4g saturated fat; saturated:unsaturated fat ratio 0.33); 12g available carbs; 2g fibre

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