I love reading and therefore have a personal library at home. Not exactly like the one with huge racks but mine is….a few books here, a few there, a few in cupboard, a few on bedside table, practically scattered all over my home.  And I am a food freak too.  So, understandably there are quite a few books which are food related…. Recipes, Healthy Eating, Mindless Eating, Super Foods, Wonder Foods, Eating to Lose Weight, Highway Eating Joints…and what not.

So, what’s the story here ? Let me try to build the context first.

I try to ‘taste’ (I eat to explore dishes but usually mind my portions)  variety of dishes, of course to find the story if there is one, so that I can bring it to you here.  In that quest, I read food books, blogs, sites, watch TV food shows, YouTube etc. Over the past few months, I have read books which talked of our Eating Habits and the Psychology behind our ‘Mindless Eating’, book on eating right with your five senses and eating every two hours and then a book on Indian Foods and creating a balanced diet out of it etc etc.  All the books are from renowned experts in the field. These confuse you more than guiding, albeit with few useful tips.

Now, these days, who would not like to lose or maintain his or her weight ? Me too.  So, in quest of that I read, practiced, discussed, watched and so on.  Result? Some gain some losses but the journey is still on with a hope to reach where one wants to.

Now, let me hold you on here.  Before you think that I am going to give you a diet plan or formula or some wonder food to lose weight, then  I suggest please abort your plan of  reading further.  I am just going to narrate you my experience with a wonder food which I hit upon a few weeks ago, by chance, while discussing healthy foods with a chef friend.  Please don’t take it as a prescription for healthy eating or incorporating it in your diet plan or using it for weight loss.  However, you are more than welcome to experiment with it and enjoy.  I am sure you would love it.

Quinoa is the hero of my story today.

Uncooked Quinoa

Pronounced as “keen-wah”, it looks like a grain but is an edible seed.  I was introduced to this as a nutritious food.   Since then, I am hooked on to this.  The days I  want to experiment, it is quinoa.  The day I want to eat healthy, it is quinoa.  The day I want to enjoy various flavours packed in one, it is quinoa.  These grain like seeds are a delight to cook, actually very easy to cook (boil) and then use it the way you want to. The cooked look, slightly brownish in colour,  resembles our very own dalia but with a glaze, slightly translucent, fluffy and gives a somewhat granular jelly like feel on your tongue.  It has no flavour of its own and takes over the flavour of the food you want to pair it with .  It reminds me of that old song….jis mein milado laagey uss jaisaa.

Search on Google throws a wide range of information on Quinoa.

As per research, it belongs to the family of beetroot and Spinach and broadly resembles Amaranth. It is a rich source of Protein, Dietary Fiber ( very high than most of the grains), Vitamins, Dietry Minerals and variety of nutrients.  It is high in Amino Acids, Gluten Free and easy to digest and has beneficial effects on Metabollic Health.  It is also found to be high in antioxidants.  Research also says that it helps you to lose weight.

It is generally cooked the same way as rice and can be used in wide variety of dishes.  Cooking Quinoa is easy but needs a little care.  It has a natural coating called saponin which can make the cooked grain taste bitter.  So it is very essential to give it a thorough rinse under running water for 3-4 minutes.  This will easily remove that bitter coating.  One could chose to soak it in water for a while, before cooking, but is optional. One can also toast the Quinoa, after rinsing though, in a little oil in a pan before boiling. This will give it an extra nutty flavour. One cup of Quinoa would yield about 3 cups of cooked version.  So, if you need to cook one cup of Quinoa, take a double the amount of water in a pan and bring it to boil.  Add quinoa in it.  Normally, when I cook it, I would add one-fourth teaspoon of salt, 2-3 cloves of smashed garlic, some black pepper for flavour and aroma.  Cover it and let it cook for about 20 minutes on a slow flame.  After it is cooked, let it rest for a while and drain out the excess water, if any.  Fluff the cooked Quinoa with a fork and let it rest to cool.  Ola! It’s ready to eat…..or ready to be used.  Optionally, Quinoa can also be boiled in Vegetable or Chicken Broth.

I use it many ways and still need to experiment much more with it. I eat it with home made Daal, like Daal-Chawal. Have tried it like a salad with onion, tomato, potato, cucumber, tofu or cheese, coriander mixed with Quinoa and dressed with a dressing of Olive oil, honey, dash of lemon or vinegar, salt and pepper.  Have made Poha and Upma with it. Tried Mutton Keema like recipe with it by using Quinoa instead of Keema.  Have added chicken stock while cooking and then making salad with cooked Quinoa and shrimps or shredded chicken.  Had Omelette filled with cooked Quinoa, tried Sunny Side Up atop a heap of Quinoa in a bowl.  Used boiled eggs with Quinoa salad with dressing of my choice….ah the list is pretty long.  My favourite one is the Keema recipe as it packs all in one and is a great delight to look and savour.

Quinoa is filling, it tastes great with various foods, it tastes great on its own if added with spices in appropriate measures, it allows you to experiment and above all it is healthy.  Actually, I feel, it is a must try. I am sure, you would love it.  Try it with a simple recipe in the beginning that would encourage you to go ahead and then try slightly advanced ones. Surprisingly, a search of Quinoa recipes on net throws up amazing  results including Risotto with Quinoa or Lasagne with Quinoa or our very own Khhichri with Quinoa.  It is not only experimented by celeb chefs abroad but by our very own famous Indian chefs too.  You would find many desi recipes too on the net.

Well, while writing this piece, I am just reminded that I have two recipes saved in my notes to be tried with Quinoa.  One is Quinoa-Mushroom Frittata with Fresh Herbs and the other one is Quinoa-Crusted Chicken Nuggets.  Oooooh !! Must try it and shall soon post pictures on my FB and Twitter for you to savour.

Quinoa has evolved as a choice food over the years.  It is available in almost all the super markets and stores.  Go ahead and try it.

Rajesh Tara

1 comment on “Quinoa…….aahaa….

  1. Surjya Meher

    This is quite interesting.


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