1. Quinoa - the super supergrain

    Looking for an alternative to rice?  Or a gluten free alternative to pasta?  You should take a look at quinoa.  This Peruvian super food is an extremely high source of protein and at Great British Chefs we were recently introduced to its wonders by Quinola who are bringing this highly versatile grain to the UK.

    Did you know that both tomatoes and potatoes originated from Peru?  Perhaps quinoa will be the 3rd staple food to come from Peru too.  Quinoa is a highly unique grain because it can give you the same complete proteins that are found in meat and fish. Almost no other plant can do this.

    This is great news for vegetarians or anyone who wants to cut down on dairy products but keep up a good source of protein.  Quinoa is also gluten and cholesterol free and a full  of complex carbohydrates.  There’s a good dose of fibre added into the mix, so digests and reduces energy slowly keeping you fuller and less tempted to hanker after snacks between meals.  It’s such a complete source of proteins that NASA have ear marked it as their food of choice to take onto deep space missions.

    Quinola who launched their product into the UK just over a year ago at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair explained that not only is quinoa healthy to us but it’s good for the environment too.  It’s a sustainably organic product that’s farmed using traditional crop rotation meaning that good things are put back into the soil.  Currently the farmers in Southern Peru plant potatoes in the first year, quinoa in years 2 and 3, followed by the fallow period.  

    If you want to cut down on meat by having protein rich quinoa once a week you’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint by a fiftieth.  

    James Livingstone-Wallace who founded Quinola is also keen to bring that sustainably right through from the farmers to the production line to your plate.  He said “Free markets can lead to some fairly crazy outcomes, and little guys are often bullied into a corner when relative economic power is unbalanced. That is why we have built our business with a deep grained respect for everyone involved, and try to do things differently. “

    All our Quinola is sourced directly from the Cabaña co-operative in Peru, just north of Lake Titicaca. They are a group of about 500 farmers that are very proud to be selling their produce to you. By pooling their resources within the co-operative they have managed to build a de-husking plant, which processes the quinoa from the fields to the finished product in your pack. This has enabled them to keep a bigger part of the profits and to sell directly, rather than being squeezed by middle men.

    Cooking Quinola is easy, basically if you can boil water you can cook it!  It takes around 12 minutes to cook in water and the three varieties - smooth pearl, crunchy black and nutty red - are extremely versatile.  

    They can be used as a hot side or a  cold starter.  They’re a lovely ingredient for soups or can also be made into a sweet dessert.  Quinola carries all the flavours that you add to dishes very well and brings its own lovely texture to meals too.

    Restaurants such as Ceviche, The Ledbury and  L’Autre Pied have been adding quinoa to their signature dishes.  Andy McFadden from Michelin starred L’Autre Pied said  that quinoa goes beautifully with lobster too, works very well as a side salad and generally ‘I love quinoa as it’s all about the textures’.

    Quinola’s available in a growing range of delis and farm shops as well as Planet Organic, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason, visit this link to see where your nearest stockist is. For some delicious Quinola recipes and for more about this super super grain visit Quinola's website.