The box of quinoa proudly announces that the United Nations has declared 2013 the Year of Quinoa (pronounced keen wah). This is intriguing, why would this grain be elevated to this status? Before cooking with it, I thought I’d find out more.
It’s an adaptable crop even in places where there’s little moisture. It can grow at very high altitudes such as in in Bolivia and Peru and now cultivation is extending to areas that include North America, India, Kenya and Europe. Most cultivation is by small-scale farmers and Andean farmers are already benefiting from its growing popularity in export markets. Its nutritional properties are why the Government of Bolivia is supplies quinoa as part of a nutritional supplement programme to pregnant and nursing women, and Peru is incorporates quinoa in school breakfasts. However, Joanna Blytheman draws to our attention that the growing interest in the grain in the West may be contributing to the fact that Bolivian people are no longer able to afford to purchase the grain.
Alice and Oscar’s Quinola, their name for quinoa, is grown by a collective of 500 farmers on the shores of the highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca in altitudes up to 4000 metres. It’s grown organically and the farmers are paid a decent wage under Fairtrade terms. There are 3 different types black, pearl and red in turn crunchy, smooth and nutty. It’s gluten free and contains all the essential oils and amino acids, and is a good source of calcium, iron and protein. I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot more about this under rated grain.
It’s ridiculously easy to cook, you just boil it for 12 minutes for “al dente” or for less bite about 16 minutes. It’s a great substitute for couscous, rice or pasta. I find it also works well if you include two grains such as rice and quinoa.
Easy, mid week suppers should be simple to prepare and require as little attention as possible. For my dish, I chopped a variety of vegetables I had to hand. You can substitute whatever you have available – just remember to make them equal size. If you’re adding sweet potato, I’d part cook this before roasting. For the cheese, I used a soft French cheese – I suggest using a flavoursome goats cheese or blue cheese as an alternative.
Roasted Vegetables with Quinoa
- 120 gr quinoa
- 100 gr soft cheese eg goat's cheese or something similar to brie
- For the roasted vegetables:
- 2 red or green peppers, sliced
- ½ aubergine sliced
- 100 gr cherry tomatoes
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 large clove garlic sliced
- ½ chilli (optional)
- A handful of fresh herbs chopped (I used rosemary, thyme and coriander) or 2-3 teaspoons dried herbs. .
- salt and pepper
- olive or rapeseed oil
- Set oven temperate 200°C (Gas 6, 400°F)
- Chop vegetables to equal sized sliced and put in baking dish. Add garlic clove.
- Drizzle with oil so that the vegetables are lightly covered. Lightly sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs
- Bake in the oven until soften and lightly browned. This will depend on your oven but it will take approximately 30 minutes
- In the meantime, cook the quinoa in salted water for about 12 minutes. Drain.
- Cut the cheese into rough cubes.
- When the vegetables are done, add the quinoa and mix well. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Remove the chilli
- Add the cheese and mix. Return to the open for a short while to melt the cheese.
Find out More
There are many other recipes you can make with quinoa in Alice & Oscar’s recipe index.
Do visit the Queen of Quinoa who also includes recipes for sweet dishes too. I am looking forward to trying them!