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QUINOA

QuinoaQuinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has been culivated in the South American Andes for 5000 years. Given the name ‘the mother grain’ by ancient farmers, it was cultivated alongside potatoes as a staple crop, and revered as sacred due to its hardiness, nutritional value, and versatility. Like buckwheat, it is called a grain, but it is technically the fruit of a plant in the Chenopodium family. Quinoa is now grown in and exported from Peru and the United States.

The annual plant is one to two metres high with large seed clusters at the end of the stalk, similar to millet. In fact, the most popular strain of Quinoa is pale yellow in appearance, and does resemble millet in colour and size, although quinoa is more flattened than spherical.

So far as its food value is concerned, one researcher has said, “ while no single food can supply all of the essential life-sustaining nutrients, it (quinoa) comes as close as any other in the vegetable or animal kingdoms.” It contains more protein than any other grain: an average of 16.2 %, compared with 7.5 % for rice, 9.9 % for millet, 8.2 % for barley, and 14 % for wheat. It has a good balance of the amino acids that make up the protein and is high in lycine, an amino acid not overly abundant in the vegetarian diet.

Quinoa is easy to cook, and like rice, blends well with other grains or whole-grain pilafs. The cooked consistency is light, with a texture resembling caviar.

Quinoa Tabbouli Salad

Quinoa Tabbouli Salad

Preparation and cooking time: about 35 minutes
Makes enough for 6 persons

1¾ cups quinoa, about 340 grams
3½ cups water
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves,
¾ cup finely diced cucumbers
½ cup finely diced tomatoes


Rinse the quinoa in a large, fine sieve under cold running water until the water runs clear. Drain the quinoa well.

Place the water and one teaspoon salt in a heavy 2-litre saucepan and bring it to the boil over moderate heat. Add the quinoa, return to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for ten to fifteen minutes, or until the grains are translucent and fully cooked, and the quinoa’s spiral-shaped germ ring has separated.

Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside, covered, for 10 minutes to allow the quinoa to firm up.

Spoon out the quinoa and spread it on a flat dish to fully cool. Then combine it with the yellow asafetida powder, the lemon juice and olive oil, the remaining salt, black pepper, parsley, and mint in a large bowl.

Add the cucumber and tomatoes, and toss to combine all the ingredients.

Serve chilled.

from Cooking with Kurma, by Kurma Dasa

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