The super-food quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is readily available and inexpensive but remains a relatively underused ingredient. The creamy, flat, white discs could easily be confused as a grain; take a closer look - they are actually seeds which are native to the colourful Andean region of Central America.

Quinoa provides minerals, B group vitamins plus all the essential amino acids for the protein functions of growth and repair. It is an invaluable food for vegetarians and vegans. Additionally, being both gluten free and having a low glycemic index, it is good news for those who are sufferers of the Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance. The benefits of quinoa aren't restricted to following a special diet - being gluten free means no bloated feeling which can sometimes happen after eating grains and its low GI helps balance insulin production - perfect for all and a bonus for athletes and those who regularly exercise.

Being quick and simple to cook, use quinoa in a similar way as rice, pasta, pulses or potatoes in salads or as a side dish; a stuffing for poultry,for thickening soups, an alternative to using oats in porrige, the list ends only with your imagination. Quinoa has a creamy quality with a slight nutty taste though best describe it as a textural food rather than a flavour ingredient - it absorbs the delicious flavours of cooking liquids along with the array ingredients combined with it.

Using a sieve under cold running water, always rinse and drain quinoa before cooking. Add the seeds to boiling liquid then cover. Now, simply turn down the heat a little and leave to gently simmer for about 15 minutes. Don't worry if there is a small amount of cooking liquid remaining - it will be absorbed during cooling. A useful cooking proportion to remember is, 1 quinoa: 2 liquid. It is easily measured in a teacup - 1 teacup of quinoa to 2 cups of liquid. Do add flavour though; water alone will give a rather bland result so

experiment with a combination of wine, stock, herbs or spices for exciting and interesting variations.