Do you know where quinoa comes from?

Did you know it is used to produce beer? Comes in five different colours? Grows in inhospitable conditions?
Until today, I knew quinoa as a black and white gluten free carbohydrate digested as a protein and available in most supermarkets. A recent trip to Bolivia taught me a little more about the food I love and consume so much in the U.K!
Where does it come from?

Does it grow on a tree? Under the ground? Nope. It actually grows much like wheat. The quinoa plant is a small green shrub which can reach a metre or so. The “flower”, quinoa granules, are collected and then sent for purification.

Where does it grow?

The quinoa plant is a tough one. It only requires water when quinoa seeds are sowed and it grows in the desert. I’ve just passed through the Bolivian desert in between San Atacama in Chile and Uyuni in Bolivia. Quinoa production is popular here. Since this area falls on a tectonic plate border, the land is fertile from the volcanic minerals which the quinoa crop benefits from. On my journey through the desert, I saw quinoa plants growing in lines and surrounded in make shift fences marked with plastic bags to deter hungry llamas (see above). Looking further afield, you can see the mountains seem to be divided in colour. This is simply due to quinoa farming and separation of crop on the mountain side.

Types and uses

Bolivia produces five different coloured quinoas and each has a different use locally.

1. Quinoa amarilla (yellow): the most common type which is used much like rice in Bolivia.

2. Quinoa blanca (white): mostly eaten like cereal with rice unlike our western savoury uses

3. Quinoa rosada (pink/red): grinded up to produce a flour

4. Quinoa negra: sometimes eaten but mainly used to produce a gluten free beer

5. Quinoa verde: a bitter quinoa only used to make beer for example the brand Lipena (actually quite tasty).

Popped quinoa is another use. It’s popular and cheap in Bolivia. You will find it in cereal bars, upmarket chocolate and packeted on its own.

It’s a pretty impressive plant. However Bolivians aren’t too keen on it! They would prefer to exchange it for pasta or noodles. Each to their own.

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5 healthy breakfasts for backpackers

How to breakfast healthy whilst backpacking around South America

Good news: free hostel breakfast 

Bad news: it’s cake and squash..
..Oh and no blender, juicer, nutribullet, working oven.

Whether you’re going from hostel to hostel like me, or hotel to hotel, breakfast can be be tricky. On one hand you want to take advantage of what’s on offer for FREE, on the other hand, what is actually on offer is often unhealthy, sugar spiking and wheat/dairy filled. 

Travelling across Brazil and Argentina this past month, I have found the most popular morning options to be cake, bread, processed ham and cheese, cereals, milk and, fruit-wise, watermelon, melon, papaya, apples and bananas. Occasionally I have been lazy and tempted but the result is bloating, bad skin and dark circles. It’s just not worth it. AND there is no need.
Here are 5 quick fixes for a healthy gluten and dairy free breakfast:

1. Cheap and quick chia seed pudding

No kitchen needed 


 Chia seeds are a great source of Omega 3 and fibre. The great thing about travelling South America is that they’re so much cheaper to buy here than the U.K or U.S (about £2 for 500g). Health shops are common in city centres and here almond milk is readily available. Failing that coconut, soya and lactose-free milk are stocked in most supermarkets. Altogether you’re looking at about an extra £5 per week for a delicious and nutritious breakfast which will stop you splashing out satisfying sugary cravings later in the day. Prepare this the night before so there’s no need to miss out on socialising with others at breakfast.
Ingredients: 

3 tablespoons of chia seeds

1 cup almond milk

Fruit (take advantage of what’s on offer at breakfast!)

Cinammon (extra) 

Nuts (extra) – brazil nuts are about £1 / 350g
Method:

Mix the chia seeds and almond milk (and cinnamon) in a bowl or glass. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge. In the morning add the fruit (and nuts). Ta-dah. 

2. Great British Porridge

No kitchen needed



I am wheat intolerant I have found that I have no reaction to normal oats. Traditional porridge oats are available in most supermarkets and cost about £2.50 and lasts me about 2 weeks. If you need gluten-free certified porridge, it is stocked in most health food shops which are plentiful in the city centre. Invest in some dairy free milk as described in the above recipe. You can either prepare this in the kitchen (normally next to where breakfast is served in the hostel) or simply take your oats to breakfast and let them soak for about 10 minutes in boiling water (availble at breakfast). 

Ingredients:

Oats

Almond milk

Fruit 
Method: 

Add 50g porridge oats and 350ml almond milk. Put in microwave for 3 mins or on the hob for 6!

3. Versatile eggs

They’re cheap. They’re protein. They’re versatile. Go omelette with tomatoes, scrambled with avocado, poached with spinach or fried with mushrooms. Eating fruit for breakfast is tasty and free. However avoid the morning sugar spike and mix it with protein from eggs (and fats from coconut oil!)
Ingredients:

Eggs.

4. Banana pancakes 


Top your hostel breakfast. Yes everyone may be enjoying the toast but up your game. They’re really easy to make, a good mix of sugar and protein and toppings provide an additional source of nutritionist.

 
Ingredients:

2 bananas

Half an egg

Toppings (see below)
Method:

Mash the bananas till smooth and add a whisked egg. For full on gluttony add toppings. I love walnuts, peanut butter, dark chocolate, berries and more banana.

5. Acai (Brazil exclusive)



I’m afraid this one only really works if you’re travelling around Brazil. There are minimal steps to this one. Leave your hostel. Walk a maximum of 5 minutes until you find a corner shop which sells fresh acai. Spend less than £2. Enjoy. 
Look forward to backpacking breakfasts!