Quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, is probably not a staple in most households just yet, but vegetarians have been touting it’s benefits for years. For those embracing the principles of a Low-GI diet (and by this I don’t mean a weight loss plan, just a healthy way of eating), you will understand what I mean when I say that quinoa is a low-GI food. Simply put, low-GI food takes longer to digest, so you feel full for longer.
One of my favourite recipe books is the Easy GI Diet by Helen Foster. She explains the secret of glucose and the glycaemic index like this: The body’s preferred fuel is a sugar called glucose, which it makes from starches and sugars (carbohydrates) found in the food that we eat. Glucose is made in the liver after the food has been digested in the stomach. The converted glucose is then sent to the body’s cells where it is either burned immediately as we run, walk or even think, or stored in the muscles and fatty resources for later use. This happens with just about every food that contains carbohydrates, whether it is a plate of spinach or a plate of doughnuts. What differs is exactly how fast this reaction happens – and in very simple terms the glycaemic index is a measure of that speed. Foods with a high glycaemic index (known as high-GI foods) are converted rapidly to glucose, while foods with a low glycaemic index (low-GI foods) are converted more slowly.
Now back to this delicious salad. Quinoa has a very distinct flavour and nutty texture. It can be bitter because of the outer coating of the seeds, but the best way to remove this “bitterness”, which really can spoil your dish (I know from experience), is to rinse it thoroughly in a wire mesh sieve or strainer held under cold running water prior to cooking. Also check through it carefully as occasionally there may be small stone-like beads or grit left from the milling process. I found this great site that goes into a lot more detail about quinoa, it’s uses, history, classification, preparation, cooking, etc. Check it out and note that the “Tips for preparing and cooking” section is about halfway down the page: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups washed and par cooked broccoli florets
1 – 2 cups cooked shredded chicken (left over roast works well)
½ cup carrots, julienne
½ cup chopped kalamata olives (adds quite an intense flavour so up to you to include or leave out)
1 sliced red or orange capsicum (pepper) (Roasted peppers can also be used – adds a sweeter flavour)
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
½ cup crumbled feta (I like a reduced salt Goat’s Feta)
For the dressing: Orange or Lemon, they’re both delicious
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of ½ a lemon or 1 orange
zest (more of the orange, less of the lemon depending on which one you’re making)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare the quinoa and fluff up with a fork once cooked.
- Shred the leftover chicken and par cook the broccoli.
- Wash, peel and finely slice the carrots (can be grated but I find you lose some of the texture)
- Chop the olives and slice the capsicum.
- Grate the parmesan.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, adding the feta last.
- Prepare the dressing ingredients by combining in a bottle (with a lid!) and giving a good shake or whisk together. Pour over the salad and mix gently.
- This salad can be served at room temperature or prepared ahead of time and left in the fridge to cool.
A very versatile, colourful, filling and tasty meal.