_Quinoa & Amaranth are actually seeds that originate from ancient South American times. Quinoa originates from the Incas and Amaranth from the Aztecs. The seeds are extremely versatile and can be used as an alternative to rice in whole form and flakes can be used to make porridge. They also come puffed for breakfast cereal, can be sprouted, and also ground into flour.
Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wa’, comes in different varieties including:
-White is the mildest in flavour and the best multi-purpose quinoa
-Red is a slightly larger seed, having a stronger, nuttier flavour, great for soups and salads
-Black is smaller with a husk that stays firm with cooking, creating texture and providing fibre++
Amaranth is a tiny seed that apparently has different coloured varieties; however the light brown seeds are found commercially.
Quinoa and Amaranth have a low glycemic index (GI), are gluten free and are jam packed with nutrients including a complete amino acid profile. This means it contains all eight essential amino acids which is rare in plants. Humans can’t manufacture these amino acids so must be provided in food. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein that form tissues like muscles and skin and help create enzymes. Compared with other grains and some vegetables, quinoa and amaranth are higher in protein, B vitamins, potassium, zinc, calcium, iron and Vitamin E.
Quinoa and Amaranth have around 16 % protein compared with around 7.5 % for rice and 10 % for wheat and millet.
Quinoa is considered a super-crop by the United Nations, and NASA are considering using quinoa as a food on its space flights for its superior and balance nutritional profile.
Use a ratio of one cup of seed to 2 cups water/liquid, bring to boil and simmer for 20-25 mins. Quinoa must be rinsed before cooking as it has bitter saponins as a coating. Amaranth doesn’t. Quinoa has a white tail that pops out of the seed when cooked with white and red having a light fluffy texture. Amaranth has a stickier texture once cooked and is great used as a thickener, e.g. in soups.
Soaking before cooking
Most grains/seeds contain anti-nutrients on their coatings such as enzyme inhibitors and phytates. These prevent sprouting till activated by water and deter pests from eating them while dormant. These substances also interfere with mineral absorp-tion, particularly Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc, and B vitamins. Soaking not only results in an increase in available nutrients, it makes digestion easier and also reduces the cooking time by about 5 mins.
To soak, cover with good quality water, add a Tbs of lemon juice, buttermilk, yoghurt or whey. This helps the breakdown of the anti-nutrients by starting a gentle fermentation process. Cook in ¼ cup less water for 1 cup of seeds if soaked
To sprout, soak in filtered or spring water overnight, rinse and drain twice daily till the tail is ½ to 1 cm long. Store in the fridge and consume within a few days.
For flour, grind in a mill, Vitamix dry jug or Thermomix. Bought or self milled flour should ideally be kept in the fridge or freezer to keep it as fresh as possible.
Pasta noodles, flakes, puffs and various cereal combinations are available from good health food and organic shops.