What is it?
It's the new porridge, made with the tiny, grain-like seeds of the goosefoot plant, traditionally grown in the Andes and known by the Incans as ''the mother of all grains''. Today, it's a founding member of the superfood hall of fame for its high-protein, gluten-free and low-GI status, appearing on more and more cafe breakfast menus to accommodate those who want a wheat-free start to the day that's healthier than thou.
Where is it?
Suzanne Wood, of Sydney's ''quinoa-obsessed'' Bondi Wholefoods cafe, says everything has a healthier alternative, even porridge. ''We maintain all the things people like about porridge - the creaminess, the bulk and the warming goodness,'' she explains, ''but we make it without gluten, dairy or added sugar by using quinoa, coconut milk and dates.''
Wood says even the addition of cinnamon and vanilla conspire to make you think you're eating something sweeter than it really is.
In Melbourne, Il Fornaio chef Simon Turner combines red quinoa with amaranth, organic oats, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, hibiscus tea, hazelnuts, raisins, goji berries and unsweetened almond milk in a porridge that makes you feel healthier just reading about it. He supports local growers of quinoa, such as Tasmania's Kindred Organics, having learnt during his time as chef with Medecins Sans Frontieres in Bolivia that the global popularity of quinoa has unfortunately driven up seed prices for local growers to unsustainable levels.
''It's nice to know people are concerned about their health, but it's important to be aware of the bigger picture,'' he says.
Why do I care?
Because it's sustaining and comforting, sweet, nutty and a little bit fluffy.
Can I do it at home?
Sure. Look for white quinoa or a mix of red, white and black at supermarkets and health-food stores. Always rinse the seeds in cold water first, to remove their natural coating of saponin, which can be bitter. Some quinoa needs a quick soak as well, so read the label.
QUINOA PORRIDGE WITH FRUIT AND NUTS
For the fruit, try poached pears, grated apple, dates, prunes, bananas or berries. For the nuts, try walnuts, pistachios or almonds, and add a handful of sunflower or pumpkin seeds for extra goodness.
100ml milk, rice milk, buttermilk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp dried cranberries, sultanas or currants
honey or sugar to taste
1. Rinse the quinoa well in cold, running water, as you would rice.
2. Combine with 350 millilitres of water and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender, when the little white ''tails'' appear. Drain off any excess water, and return to the pan.
3. Add the milk, vanilla, cinnamon,
dried fruit and honey or sugar to taste and simmer gently for five minutes.
4. Top with fresh, raw or poached fruits, nuts and seeds, and serve.
Bondi Wholefoods, 30a Hastings Parade, North Bondi, 02 9300 6776, bondiwholefoods.com.au
Il Fornaio, 2c Acland Street, St Kilda, 03 9534 2922, ilfornaio.com.au