A Right Royal Salad

Here’s another recipe on trial (ahead of publication) from Flo’s book Feeding Orchids to the Slugs.

I’m making Quinoa Salad. Of course I resist the correct pronunciation which is keen wah salad and say it the way I read it in English: Queen Noah Salad. I shall adopt this one as not only is it a rather special dish but the ingredients remind me of another exotic dish, the middle eastern pilaf which you’ll find versions of all over the world. Anyway on with Flo’s recipe.

Take: 2 cups of quinoa, quarter of a cup of unsalted, shelled pistachios, 1 medium red onion, slice thinly, two thirds cup of olive oil, grated zest and juice of 1 orange, half a cup of unsulphured dried apricots, chopped, 2 handfuls of rocket or baby spinach, salt and pepper.

Roast the pistachios to bring out their flavour, either in a medium oven or dry roast them in a frying pan for a few minutes. Roughly chop and set aside.

Zest and juice the orange. Slice the apricots and leave to soak in the orange juice.

Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under flowing water until it runs clear. I cooked 2 cups of quinoa in 2 cups of boiling water and simmered until all the water had gone. I didn’t salt the water. You want to keep the tiny seed grains whole and avoid overcooking into a mush. It should be tender with a grainy texture, like couscous. Spread out on a baking tray and rake over with a fork to let the air dry it out as it cools down and stops cooking.

Fry the sliced red onion in olive oil, cook in a heavy based pan, until brown and a little crispy and caramelised. Leave in the pan with the oil to cool.

In a serving bowl combine quinoa, onion and oil from the pan and pistachio nuts. Drain the apricots, add to the salad. Use the juice to combine with the olive oil, zest and seasoning, mix well and pour over the salad. Add the rocket or spinach leaves to the salad or serve separately. The colour, texture and flavour of rocket combines well with the ingredients. I also think mint would complement the flavours. The orange juice and zest in this recipe is a masterstroke as it cuts through the sweetness of onion and apricot whilst bringing out the earthy flavour of the quinoa.

As with pilaf, quinoa salad can be served hot or cold, on its own or with another dish such as a meat or vegetable tagine. Don’t know why but the finished dish looks very feminine on close inspection. If you click on the photo above to enlarge the image, you’ll see what I mean. The quinoa seeds have expanded into a ripe fullness and released a little tail sprout not unlike frogs spawn (don’t let that put you off). Intriguing . . . and then there’s little wisps of orange zest, pieces of apricot, red onion and green pistachio nuts. Colourful, complex, mysterious and delicious. Well deserving of the title: Queen Noah salad.

Flo says if you’re lucky enough to find red quinoa, buy it. It’s even more delicious than the pale version you’ll find in supermarkets and health food shops. Quinoa has been identified as a super food due to it’s nutritional value. It works well as a lean alternative to cereal and pasta based salads.

Flo’s book is due out in November. Meanwhile I’ll be reporting next on her Lentil Cottage Pie.




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