I've been a fan of quinoa (keen-wah) for several years now. I vaguely remember timidly buying a box and carefully reading the instructions before cooking it up. The remainder of the box sat on a shelf in the cupboard for quite a while - I just didn't know how to use it.
That was a long time ago! Now I use quinoa a lot, often as warm and nutty quinoa porridge, sometimes in stuffed vegetables. I don't use a recipe for the stuffed vegies, I just cook up the quinoa with stock and tinned or fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms, capsicum and the innards of the stuffed vegetable (usually eggplant or gigantic zucchini). Spoon the mixture into the vegetable shell, sprinkle with parmesan and bread crumbs and bake for 30-40 minutes. Yummo. They're my two favourite ways with quinoa, but I do all sorts of things with it, some delicious, some... not so delicious. It's all about experimenting I say, although Frank isn't so keen on the whole experimentation thing, particularly when I forget to wash the grain! (I've found an organic Tassie source of quinoa, Kindred Organics. They don't have the facilities to wash the bitter coating off the grain and I've ruined a meal or two by cooking it straight from the bag. Whoops.)
Towards the end of last year I was pleased to find a quinoa recipe book called Quinoa 365, so pleased in fact, that I bought two copies. One for a friend and one for me. The recipe book is beautifully presented, covering everything from breakfasts to snacks to soups, mains and desserts.
It includes plenty of different ways to cook with quinoa, but as someone who has been using quinoa a while, it just wasn't very revolutionary. Most of the recipes use small amounts quinoa to supplement common recipes, for example the Ranch House Omelet on page 29. Good quality eggs are so full of protein, what's the point of adding two tablespoons of quinoa? I guess I'd been expecting more vegetarian recipes that used quinoa as their base and built around it, rather than recipes which added quinoa as an optional extra onto the side of fairly traditional meals.
Still, if you've never cooked with quinoa before, Quinoa 365 provides a great place to start. You can cook familiar recipes (such as the beef and vegetable soup on page 61) and tart them up with added quinoa, developing both the taste for it and the skill in cooking it.
The section of the book I've used most are 'Cookies, muffins and more' and 'Everyday desserts'. Again, quinoa is often used to compliment the wheat flour in the recipe, but here and there you can find recipes that rely solely on quinoa. I cooked one of them tonight, Moist Chocolate Cake (p159), and it was amazing. There's no flour in the recipe, just cooked quinoa grain which is blended with milk, eggs, butter, cocoa and bucket loads of sugar. Delicious! The cake was moist with a pleasantly light but crunchy crust, and the flavour was rich. The Raspberry Coconut Bars on page 149 also rely solely on quinoa flour in the crust. This slice has a more obvious, slightly bitter quinoa taste which was balanced by the sweetness of the jam and coconut toppings. My slice was a fairly floppy affair, not very bar like at all, but a few more minutes in the oven may have fixed that.
I'm still wishing there were more vegetarian quinoa recipes amongst the main meals in Quinoa 365, but the desserts and sweet treats have sufficiently inspired me to keep testing different recipes... and soon I'll be confident enough to develop some of my own quinoa cakes and biscuits. For now I'm heading back to that Moist Chocolate Cake to polish off a few more pieces! Mmmmmm.