Quinoa, chèvre & walnut salad

Main Dishes

A recipe, ideal for a potluck meal in the garden, from Hafiz.

Quinoa salad

There’s a certain awkwardness these days in being asked out to a bring-and-share party. Of course I’d love to see my friends, but partaking in a shared meal of unknown provenance is quite simply too risky. My solution is to bring along something that will stand quite satisfyingly as a meal in itself. On arrival I load up my plate, and let go of any worries as to what travels the serving spoon might undergo during the course of the evening.

Quinoa makes an excellent basis for a nutritious mixed salad. In itself, it possesses a high protein content, which can be boosted by such additional elements as nuts and cheese. As ever, my selection of salad ingredients is guided by considerations of colour, shape, flavour and texture.

1 cup quinoa (about 200 g)
100 g walnut pieces, toasted
200 g broccoli, cooked 3 minutes
1 red pepper, grilled
150 g goats’ cheese (chèvre)
small bunch mint or parsley
3 Tbs olive oil
1½ Tbs balsamic vinegar

I’d like to take this opportunity to describe the best way I know to cook quinoa, which optimises the flavour and produces light and fluffy grains rather than a dense and dispiriting mass.

Measure the quinoa, and dry roast it in a small skillet over a medium flame. Pay close attention, shaking the grains from time to time to keep them from settling and burning. After a few minutes you will start to notice a pleasant toasty aroma, together with the occasional discrete popping sound, a small-scale version of popcorn. Don’t overdo the roasting process, or the flavour will spoil.

Meanwhile, heat two cupfuls of water in a small, covered saucepan. Bring to the boil, then keep it simmering, covered, ready for the quinoa.

Carefully, add the toasted quinoa to the pan – there is likely to be some sputtering! Replace the lid, and simmer for around ten minutes, by which time the roasted grains should have absorbed the water. Remove from the heat, but leave the quinoa in the covered pan for a further 20 to 30 minutes to steam through completely.

If using for a salad, turn the quinoa into a bowl and allow to cool fully.

Now, we can start assembling the other ingredients.

Walnuts will need toasting in a medium oven (approx 160°C, Gas Mk 3) for around 18 minutes. You could do a larger quantity, keeping the remainder in a jar as a handy nibble.

Set a small pan of water to boil. Divide the broccoli into branches, and cook these for no more than three minutes before scooping them out and plunging into cold water. Drain, then carefully divide the pieces into tiny stalks.

Divide the red pepper into three panels, removing the stalk and seeds. Place these under a grill, or on a trivet over a medium flame, with the skin facing the heat. Allow the skin to blister and turn black, turning the pieces as appropriate. When cool, the skin can be rubbed off and discarded, while the flesh will have exchanged its rawness for a satisfying juicy sweetness. Slice into small strips.

Chop the herbs, and cut the goat’s cheese into small pieces. Assemble the various ingredients in a suitably attractive bowl, add the dressing and seasoning, and mix well.

The Magic Cookbook onlineAs published on Hafiz’s website Magic Cookbook Online.  
Hafiz has been compiling an online database of the many vegetarian recipes he has written over the course of his catering career. It’s a work in progress – though recent additions to his repertoire are necessarily all gluten-free. Here’s a link to the Gluten-Free! page.

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