The UN crowned 2013 the ‘Year of Quinoa’, and since then this wonder food has gone from strength to strength and can now be found in most supermarkets and restaurants. Quinoa is actually a seed that is often mistaken for a grain due to its similar appearance and uses in recipes, making it the ideal substitute for glutinous grains if you are coeliac or follow a gluten-free diet. I’ve been a fan of this versatile ingredient for quite some time now, but recently I was sent a range of quinoa products from a wonderful company, Quinola, to taste and review for you here. The products I’ll talk about include some standard dried quinoas as well as some super useful Express pouches that are lifesavers for those of us with little time to spare. I hope you find this useful!
Quinola are a company that started up with the intention of finding a Fairtrade product that would benefit underpaid farmers and improve their quality of life whilst providing customers with a nutritious food that they would love. Whilst travelling in quinoa’s home, Peru, the company discovered the perfect crop – quinoa has long been enjoyed by South Americans and their ancestors for its benefits, and only relatively recently have the health food communities realised what a healthy choice this food could be for people all over the world. Packed with fibre and essential amino acids that we can only get from our diet, quinoa is a great source of protein and slow-release energy that keeps you full and fuels your cells. Plus the slightly nutty taste is delicious!
As mentioned earlier, Quinola as a brand operate Fairtrade policies that mean the growers of the quinoa are paid fairly and can make a sustainable living out of their crops. Quinola also source organic ingredients that contain no harmful pesticides or fertilisers, and they even go one step further by ensuring the sustainability of their practices via mixed agriculture and crop rotations, allowing land to recover between harvests. As someone who is deeply concerned about our environment and long-term impacts on the planet, this was wonderful news to me and I am so happy to support Quinola’s ethics.
So, down to the products themselves. I was lucky enough to try both Pearl and Black dried quinoa from the ‘Quinola Grain’ range, as well as three pouches from the ‘Quinola Express’ range: Pearl and Red, Pearl and Black, and Split Pea.
The Pearl and Black varieties from the Quinola Grain range both come dried, so have to be cooked yourself. The packet explains how to do this: if you can boil water you can cook quinoa, it’s so easy. The Pearl variety I found was smoother and perfect for making sweet dishes with as well as savoury (I tried it in a quinoa porridge with maple syrup, banana and almonds which was delicious!), whereas the Black quinoa has more of a bite to it and in my opinion had a slightly more pronounced nutty flavour. Both of them are great in salads, tabboulehs or served as a side in place of cous cous or rice. However, I loved using the Black quinoa in particular due to its amazing colour, which really added a nice contrast to vegetable dishes such as a hearty Mexican style salad of avocadoes, tomatoes, sweetcorn and lime.
The Quinola Express range was (in my opinion) even better! These pouches contain pre-cooked quinoa mixes in ideal serving sizes – they can serve two as a side or one hungry person as a main meal, and can be eaten cold straight from the packet or heated in a microwave if you like them hot. I absolutely loved these when I was still at uni as they save so much time on cooking and can be enjoyed even if you don’t have access to a kitchen. They would even make a great addition to a nutritious packed lunch!
The ‘Pearl and Red’ and ‘Pearl and Black’ varieties were ideal for adapting to a range of dishes due to their neutral flavour, but my favourite of the three I tried was definitely the ‘Split Pea’ pouch. The addition of the split peas to the quinoa added a nice subtle flavour to the dish without being too strong, still meaning that it’s perfect to pair with a range of veggies for a delicious meal, but also making it a nice change from quinoa on its own.
If you’re stuck for ideas on how to flavour your cooked quinoa or what to enjoy it with, here is a short list of my favourite ways to enjoy this Peruvian powerhouse:
- Cooked as a porridge in oat milk, cinnamon and nutmeg and topped with flaked almonds, banana and blueberries (the dried Pearl variety is ideal for this one).
- Cold as a salad, squirted with fresh lime juice and stirred through mixed leaves, chopped cucumber, peas and fresh mint leaves.
- Served piping hot and flavoured with paprika, dried cumin and Himalayan sea salt alongside roasted peppers, courgettes and baby corn.
- Mixed with chilli flakes, finely diced roasted butternut squash and mushrooms, then all packed into bell peppers and roasted as a stuffed pepper dish.
- Used in place of rice in stir fries packed with veggies and flavoured with tamari and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Quinola also make some healthy versions of the products tailored towards toddlers and children, plus various other flavours in the above ranges that you’ll definitely want to try.
For more recipes, tips, and information about the products and incredible farming standards, head over to Quinola’s website at quinola.com.