March 21, 2011 | Posted in:Recipes

Over the past few years many of you will have noticed an odd South American product called Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) appearing on our supermarket shelves. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a new product. However, it is thought to be 10,000 tears old and was so sacred that religious rites were held in its honour. The rituals were passed down through generations and lasted until 1532 when the Spanish Army killed the Incan emperor and destroyed the quinoa crop while taking over the lands. The conquerors suppressed all quinoa practices and usage but some of the natives would sneak to the higher portions of the land to secretly cultivate quinoa plant. Unbelievably people forgot about the plant until the 1970s.

So why is quinoa so good? Well the answer to that delves into both science and geography. It is the seed of the South American goosefoot plant – a distant relative of silver beet and spinach. It is rich in manganese, magnesium, iron, tryptophan, copper and phosphorus. It has many of the B vitamins as well, and with all nine essential amino acids, it’s a complete protein — like meat — which makes it the Holy Grail of the vegetarian world. And it’s gluten-free.

On the geography front, quinoa is one of those grains that likes to struggle, growing best at high altitude and in poor soils. It copes well with frost and drought and frankly the only thing it doesn’t like is heat.

Quinoa is easy to digest and quick to prepare. I prefer to soak the seeds for a few minutes, before placing them in a fine-meshed sieve under running water. Dry the kernels on a kitchen towel and toast the seeds in a dry, hot saucepan for a few minutes until the water evaporates and the quinoa becomes aromatic, before adding simmering water or stock to cook for about 10 – 12 minutes or until marvelously fluffy with little threads.

It’s official; after 450 years in the wilderness Quinoa has again achieved cult status. The ancient Incan grain has captured the public’s imagination with its mix of nutritional superpowers, delicious flavour and rainbow colours, popping up on trendy restaurant menus all over New Zealand

Quinoa Salad with Roast Vegetables & Haloumi

Serves 6

1 red capsicum, chopped roughly

1 yellow capsicum, chopped roughly

1 red onion, sliced

1 courgette, sliced

1 small carrot, peeled and chopped roughly

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 cup quinoa (pronounced ‘keenwa’)

Salt & pepper

1 cup spinach, chopped roughly

150g haloumi cheese, grilled until golden brown

Vinaigrette dressing (see below)

Method

Roast chopped vegetables (except spinach), garlic and olive oil in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 30 to 40 mins until golden brown. Meanwhile, wash quinoa with cold water in a sieve and squeeze dry in a clean tea towel. Place quinoa in a pan, place over a medium heat and fry until lightly toasted. Cover with boiling water or stock and simmer gently until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove vegetables from oven and add to quinoa with spinach and seasoning. Add dressing and mix well. Place in a bowl with grilled haloumi on top as a garnish and serve.

Vinaigrette

Makes 400ml

½ tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard

50ml red wine vinegar

50ml balsamic vinegar

100ml hazelnut oil

100ml avocado oil

100ml olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

6 turns white pepper

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Method

Place all the ingredients into a blender and blitz for 60 seconds. Strain through a fine sieve.


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