Quintessential Quinoa Salads
In this warmer weather, I crave different foods than I did earlier in the year. I find that I want to eat lighter, healthier meals and many more salads.
To come up with new ideas, I have been experimenting a good deal with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), the new superfood. Of course quinoa could hardly be more ancient – it was the favoured grain of the Incas – but it is still relatively new to shops here. It has become the most trumpeted ingredient because it turns out to be ridiculously healthy (for example, it leaves rice in the shade as a total protein source) and so we can expect to see it in more varieties (red is becoming more common and black is just starting to appear) and from places other than its native Peru and Bolivia.
It is very easy to prepare. Give it a quick rinse and then cook it in a ratio of two cups water to every one cup of the grain. Cooking time is about 10-15 minutes or until the point at which the germ begins to separate from the seed. Quinoa can be used as an alternative to rice or couscous. I prefer to combine it with rice, lentils, chickpeas, seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower or any seasonal vegetable.
Here are ideas for two quinoa salads. The first is more straightforward. The quinoa is partnered with puy lentils which give a lovely earthy base to the salad. Coupled with the crunch of the pistachios, the sweet, chewy cranberries as well as a bunch of fresh herbs, this is a salad which has great texture and flavour.
Quinoa & Puy Lentil Salad
60g puy lentils
20g pistachio, toasted and roughly crushed
35g dried cranberries
1 small handful of mixed herb leaves, e.g. dill, basil, chervil
1 small handful of mixed salad leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
Zest of ½ lemon
25ml good quality white wine vinegar
45ml olive oil
Salt & pepper
Rinse the quinoa and drain through a sieve. Place in a saucepan with double the amount of water. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or longer. Taste the quinoa. When cooked, the grain should be tender but still with a slight bite. When cooking is complete, you will notice that the grains have become translucent, and the white germ has partially detached itself, like a white-spiraled tail. Drain. Rinse under cold water then spread on a tray and allow to cool.
Photo: Stephanie Marriot
Meanwhile, place the lentils in a separate saucepan and cover with plenty of cold water. Cook for at least 15 minutes in boiling water. Check to see if the lentils are cooked. The lentils should be tender but still have a nice bite. Drain. Rinse under cold water and allow to cool.
Mix the white wine vinegar, crushed garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the lemon zest and season with salt. Combine the quinoa, lentils and dried cranberries and drizzle over the dressing. Mix well and taste for seasoning. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, another drizzle of olive oil or more seasoning, if you think it necessary. Mix in the pistachios, herbs and mixed leaves.
Serve on a platter with some extra chopped herbs and lemon zest on top.
Spelt & Quinoa Salad With Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta & Pomegranate Seeds
The spelt grain brings a nutty flavour to this salad and a texture similar to shortgrain brown rice.The quinoa on the other hand brings a light touch. In this recipe, these two grains are brought together to form a base for a variety of seeds and vegetables. The lemony dressing adds to the flavour and freshness.
This recipe is taken from my cookbook ‘From Lynda’s Table’ which can be bought online.
60g pumpkin seeds
60g sunflower seeds
150g green beans
1 butternut squash
3-4 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 ½ lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
150g feta, crumbled
FOR THE HERB OIL
50g basil leaves
3 garlic cloves
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan, 325°F, Gas 3.
Place the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds on a baking tray, keeping them separate. Roast the sunflower seeds for about 6 minutes and the pumpkin seeds for about 8 minutes.
Place the spelt in a large pot of cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 35 – 45 minutes, until the grains are tender. For a salad like this, the grains should be barely cooked so that they retain their texture and firmness. Make sure to have plenty of boiling water ready to top up the pot during the cooking process. Drain immediately in a colander in the sink and refresh by running under cold water until all the grains are cold to the touch. Tip onto a tray or plate lined with absorbent paper and leave to dry.
For the quinoa, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the quinoa and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, refresh and dry in the exact same way as for the spelt.
Top and tail the green beans. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the green beans and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain immediately, refresh under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Turn the oven temperature up to 220°C, 200°C Fan, 425°F, Gas 7.
Peel the butternut squash. Slice in half across the middle. Standing each piece on its end, cut in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut into small wedges, each one about 1 ½ cm at its widest. It’s important that the pieces are of a similar size so that they cook in the same time.
Place the pieces in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Place on a baking tray, spaced slightly apart from each other, and roast for 20-25 minutes, until all the pieces are cooked through. They should be tender when tested with a small knife. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Slice the pomegranate in half crossways. Hold half of the pomegranate in one hand, with the cut side facing down over a large bowl, and smack the pomegranate with the back of a wooden spoon. The seeds and some of the pith will fall into the bowl through your fingers. Repeat with the other half and then remove any bits of pitch that have fallen into the bowl and discard. Set the seeds aside.
To make the herb oil, blend the herbs in a food processor with the garlic, olive oil and seasoning.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the spelt and quinoa with the herb oil, lemon juice and zest, mixing until all the grains are well coated. Check for seasoning and balance. If it looks a little dry, add a little more olive oil. Mix in the green beans, butternut squash, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and butternut squash pieces. Serve on a large plate, layering through the crumbled feta and pomegranate seeds as you go and scattering some of both on top.
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