Keen for quinoa

So, with regards to the old fitness, it hasn’t gone quite as well as in the first week but I am still going running 3 or 4 times a week and that is the important thing! I haven’t done 11k since that last time but every run has been 8k, which is not bad. I am finding that, whereas before I would get up at 6am to do a run before going to work if I had to, now I am definitely not motivated to do that. Running just before sunset is my favourite time so there are some days when I am just not around or don’t have the time to do it then. I have been using my exercise bike a bit though. The other day, I didn’t have time to exercise until about 9.30pm, but I just cycled through two episodes of ‘Nashville’ (my new favourite thing to watch! It’s a bit cheesy but I just love it now. On a different note, Hayden Panettiere, an actress in the show, said this about motherhood!), which was about an hour and a half. Happy with that!

Now, the next step is healthy eating. I’m not one of those people who has a take away every other night and eats a ton of processed food. Thank goodness I will never need to be taught how to identify what is healthy and unhealthy. Believe me when I say that I know the approximate calorific content of most food and what is good for a workout (I have read my fair share of fitness and nutrition magazines and books!).  I genuinely like vegetables and lean foods, so that’s not a problem. However, whereas I can pass on the savoury most of the time, sugar is my big downfall. The other day, my own mother shamed me into not eating a chocolate biscuit with my breakfast (and let me tell you that this was not going to be the only biscuit of the day!). I know I shouldn’t be having it with my cereal but she came out and said it and then I had to admit to myself that, since Lent (where I gave up all sugar), I have been going a bit crazy on the ol’ sugar. So, that’s something that I am trying to reduce a bit. I’m not going to totally cut it out, because I do crave it and it does motivate me to actually do a run so that I can justify having sugar in my day.

With healthy eating in mind, and having watched one of Sarah Dussault’s youtube videos about what she puts in a salad, I decided I would finally give quinoa a go (apparently it’s pronounced ‘keen-wah’, though I’m not one of those snobs who corrects someone because I think there is a better way of saying ‘chorizo’, so say whatever you want!). I’ve eaten it in salads before, but, since being at home, I’ve never made it myself because I assumed it was hard to cook and because I know that my Mum and Dad would not like it (when I say my Dad likes potatoes, I mean he really likes them!). When I do cook a meal for my parents (and I’m actually not bad at cooking), my Mum goes all silent and when I ask her if she liked it, she says, in a high-pitched voice, “Yeah, yeah, it was…fine”. Oh, fine, was it?! Wrong answer.

Anyway, Sarah suggested putting quinoa in your salad. I had read about this in a food column at the back of the Stella magazine (and of course it’s been a fashionable ingredient for a good while now…), which comes with the Sunday Telegraph, and therefore knew that it was high in protein, which is always good! I remembered that the food column had mentioned that it tasted a bit plain if it wasn’t roasted in a pan before you cook it, so I knew this was what I should do. However, on the packet it said that you should wash it beforehand. Well, quinoa grains are very small so I wasn’t sure how I should drain it. I gave it a go but lots of bits went into the sink when I tried to drain it and I could see that it wasn’t roasting when I put it in the pan, so I chucked that batch. I started again, not washing it this time, and putting about a teaspoon of olive oil in the pan (I used a frying pan and then transferred it to a normal pan to cook it with water). This worked well so I moved it around for about a minute before adding water to it and cooking it out for about 20 minutes. In hindsight, I think I will add less water to it (the packet said 360mls of water for 60g of quinoa) because you’re supposed to cook out the water (a bit like what happens when you cook couscous, where the water is sucked up by the grains, except you cook it on a stove) but by the end of about 20-25 minutes, it was still a bit moist. I ate it anyway and I realised why it should have been washed. It wasn’t inedible but it was definitely a bit bitter. I’ll put some instructions below with some advice on how to clean it because I think it would have been more enjoyable if I had done that. I can say that I am feeling nicely full now though and I ate with lots of vegetables too, so I feel quite virtuous too :p

I ate mine with an edamame bean salad that I bought from Waitrose (very tasty!) and some green peppers that I left as thick strips, drizzled with a little olive oil, seasoned and roasted in the oven for about 25 minutes on gas mark 6. If you’re unfamiliar with roasting veggies, it’s delicious and very easy to do. Just rub a little oil on whatever vegetable (usually root vegetables work the best…), season with salt and pepper and roast it in the oven, on a high-ish heat until it has gone soft and caramelised a little. You can add herbs and so on if you like.

The end result.

The end result.

How to cook quinoa (serves 1)

– 60g quinoa

– 340-360 mls water (you can add stock too; I think that granules are fine. I add them when I cook cous cous – either chicken or vegetable. Beef granules taste horrible, I think)

– A pinch of salt (not needed if you’re using stock as that will have plenty of salt in it already)

– 1/2 teaspoon Olive Oil


1. Measure out 60g of quinoa (I have some digital scales for this. If you’ve never tried them, they’re very useful and not very expensive)

2. Empty the quinoa into a sieve and put it under some running cold water. You can use your fingers but I think it would be better to use a wooden spoon to move the quinoa around as I found it stuck to my fingers.

I found this on a cooking website, which explain why it needs to be washed:

Rinsing removes quinoa’s natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter or soapy. Although boxed quinoa is often pre-rinsed, it doesn’t hurt to give the seeds an additional rinse at home. Some cookbooks suggest soaking the quinoa but, in our experience, this is unnecessary.

So, now you know.

3. After draining the quinoa as much as you can, heat the olive oil in a pan and add the quinoa. Move the quinoa around with the same wooden spoon for about a minute. I think the goal is to cook it out a little bit to get the nutty flavour.

4. If you have used a normal pan, keep the quinoa in that and add the water. If not, empty it from the frying pan into a normal pan and add the water (with the stock, if you’re using it). The water should be fresh water, not boiling.

5. Bring the water to the boil and then allow it to simmer for 20 minutes with a lid on. Keep the heat as low as possible, whilst allowing it to be high enough for it to simmer gently. I’d keep an eye on it while it cooks to make sure that it doesn’t become too dry and burn. One website suggested cooking it for 15 minutes and then turning off the heat and letting it stand with the lid on. Well, I had added too much water so I cooked it for about 20-25 minutes and then let it stand for another 5 with the lid on.

6. Take the lid off and stir the cooked quinoa with a fork so that it goes ‘fluffy’.

7.  Eat it! 🙂 From what I understand, quinoa can be used in the same way as couscous. Mix it into a salad, eat it with curry or whatever else. I almost never eat rice if I’m cooking for myself and use couscous in its place, so I might start to eat a bit more quinoa in place of couscous as I believe it has slightly more protein.

Go forth and be healthy!


One thought on “Keen for quinoa

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