For the last few months I've been making more of an effort to eat healthily at lunch times, making plenty of salads with raw foods, pulses and grains like quinoa. It's a busy time of year for me and it's all too easy to fall into just grabbing a sandwich every day, or worse still picking at food whilst working in the kitchen.
I'm using lots of quinoa as a base for my salads and definitely feel all the better for it, not surprising considering what a complete source of protein, fibre and iron it is. I cook it in a light vegetable stock such as Marigold, and make enough for several salads, as it will keep happily in a container in the fridge for several days. I also just read it can be sprouted really quickly which increases its nutritional value, that's next on the 'to-do' list then.
This salad was inspired by a Tapas dish I ate recently at Morito, a beetroot houmous topped with crumbled feta and walnuts - just one of many fresh and delicious dishes on the menu. I love beetroot at all times, but sweet summer beetroot with salty feta and crunchy toasted walnuts is an especially lovely combination.
Beetroot, feta, walnut & quinoa salad
500ml of light vegetable stock
200g beetroot, cooked or raw, 4 small or 2 medium approx
50g walnuts, lightly toasted
100g feta, crumbled into chunks
2 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves and herbs, I used baby red chard, pea shoots & chervil.
100ml olive oil
50ml balsamic vinegar
Pinch of lemon zest
Simmer the quinoa in the stock for 10-15 minutes until the germ has separated from the seed, each grain should still be firm and not mushy, drain away any remaining liquid.
If using raw beetroot then firstly cook by placing in a roasting tin, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with a little balsamic, and roast in a medium oven until cooked through. This will take between 30 and 40 minutes depending on the size of the beetroot. Once cooked and cooled rub the papery skins away and rinse in cold water before slicing into wedges.
Lightly toast the walnuts in a dry pan, and prepare the feta by crumbling into small chunks.
For the balsamic dressing combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest and season. Mix well to combine.
This salad can be prepared either on individual plates or on a platter for the middle of the table, and makes a lovely lunch on its own or a good accompaniment to grilled meat or fish.
Firstly sprinkle the quinoa onto the plate, then layer the leaves, dressing, and scatter half the beetroot slices, feta and walnuts on top. Repeat the process with another layer, starting with quinoa then adding the other ingredients as before. Finish with a little more of the salad dressing.