The How To series was to have kick started years ago when I first made the blog. It took many moons and a pandemic to finally get it off the runway, probably because the runways are currently much freer due to reduced flights nowadays 😎😏 Sorry for the extremely lame joke but it really helps me start my writing 😀
So I will debut with a ‘How to cook Quinoa’ post and hopefully gather momentum to post all my earlier ideas in rapid succession.
Chenopodium Quinoa is a plant belonging to the Amaranth family. Though the quinoa is used and referred to as a grain, it is actually the seed of the plant which is cooked and eaten in a manner similar to grains, hence it is classified as a pseudo cereal. It is also ground into flour and used as a gluten free alternative.
Quinoa is pronounced Keenwah and that is the first thing to get right before embarking on a relationship with it 😀
Quinoa has its origins in South America and is said to have been cultivated as early as 5000 years ago and was used by the Incas who considered it to be a sacred seed.
Today it is hugely popular because of its properties that qualify it to be considered a super food.
Its numerous health benefits include antioxidant properties, its gluten free nature, richness in protein and minerals, low glycemic index, its high fibre content etc etc.
(some of the information above is gleaned from various sources on the internet)
Quinoa is not a native Indian grain but has gained popularity in the recent years. Initially being imported from South American countries and hence quite expensive in comparison to local grains, seeds and pseudo cereals, it has now become much more affordable because farmers have now begun growing it in reasonably big quantities in India too.
Quinoa has many variants including black, read and white but what I have seen and used is the white quinoa.
The seed is consumed after cooking and has a nutty texture. In the form of flour, it incorporates well, with not much of a distinct flavor.
How to cook Quinoa –
Be aware that quinoa from different sources may have different cooking times. What I am documenting here is a common procedure with average cooking times. You may have to adjust according to the batch of quinoa that you have. A bit of trial and error will help to understand each batch but mostly the variation is not too significant. You may use whatever method is convenient for you.
The seed is coated by what is called saponin, which being bitter, is its natural defense from foraging birds and animals. While some processed quinoa might have most of the saponins removed, it is recommended to soak well before cooking or at least rinse thoroughly. I prefer to soak for at least an hour because I find that it also reduces the cooking time.
Quinoa can be cooked in the pressure cooker or microwave or directly on the stove top in a pot of boiling water.
In the cooker or regular pot, the quinoa is boiled in the exact amount of water which will be absorbed with no remnant liquid. This is usually in the ratio of quinoa:liquid 1:2 or 1:1.75. Some people also add a couple of teaspoons of oil while cooking or sometimes they toast the seeds in a bit of oil before adding water.
I do not prefer pressure cooking or cooking with this fixed liquid method because at times I have found the result to be a bit mushy even with the addition of 1 – 2 teaspoons of oil.
I have also not attempted the microwave method.
What I prefer is the Stove top boiling method which is as below.
My method of cooking Quinoa –
1) Place the quinoa in a small meshed strainer and wash 2 – 3 times in running water. You can also wash it like rice, by swirling in a vessel of water and draining it and repeating this 2 – 3 times until the water runs clear. Make sure to use a small mesh strainer while draining the water or else you will lose a lot of seeds.
2) Submerge the quinoa in plenty of water and let it soak for at least 1 hour.
3) Drain the quinoa well, using the strainer once again.
4) Boil water in a large-ish vessel. I usually take 1 liter for 1 cup (200 ml) of quinoa. When the water boils, add the quinoa and stir well. You can add 1 – 2 teaspoons of oil if you wish.
5) Stir from time to time to prevent clumping.
6) Usual cooking time varies from 10 – 20 minutes depending on various factors. An average of 15 minutes usually works for me.
7) Test for doneness by pressing the grain. The cooked grain is translucent and yields to finger pressure. I also pop in some into my mouth and judge it by mouthfeel. A bit undercooked is preferable to overcooked if using in dishes where texture matters.
8) Drain the water immediately making sure to use a fine mesh sieve or a strainer.
9) Run room temperature water over the grains a couple of times.
10) I place the cooked grains on a flat mesh and place it over a vessel for the remnant water to drain. Keep this under the fan to air dry for an hour.
11) Add 1 – 2 teaspoons of oil into a bowl (this is optional) and toss the cooked grains into it and fluff them gently with a fork.
12) Refrigerate until use in further dishes. This can remain for 1 – 2 days in the fridge.
13) The chilled quinoa is suitable for use in dishes where the grains are required to stay fluffy and separate, as in items like fried rice, lemon rice, coconut rice, upma etc.
14) In dishes like Bisi bele baath, khichdi, payasam etc where mushiness is acceptable, one can freely overcook the quinoa and not worry about being careful with the texture even after cooking.
How to use Quinoa –
The cooked grains are used in a plethora of dishes. A few of them are listed below –
In items like Bisi bele baath, khichdi, payasam, risotto etc.
In salads, Indian sweets like payasam, most savory dishes that use rice as a base, like lemon rice, coconut rice, pulao, biryani etc. Follow the same recipe as with rice.
The flour is used like any other flour in Indian flatbreads, regular breads, cakes, cookies and many other bakes.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Do let me know if there is any specific ingredient that you want me to write about in future for my How To Series.
Do leave your valuable feedback in the blog comments.
Sep 16th, 2020