Quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wah') is a fantastic base for any salad. The grain is gluten free, high in protein and extremely versatile. When my mum invited me to dinner recently, she presented this beautiful quinoa salad, packed full of vegetables and with a hint of zest. It was like eating the rainbow: reds from the capsicum and tomato, greens from the spinach, rocket, snow peas, cucumber and celery, orange from the carrot and a glorious purple cabbage. In her retirement, my mum has embraced a healthier lifestyle, visiting the gym regularly, walking with friends and trying new salad combinations. Her coleslaws are incredible.
I'm not sure about your mum, but whenever I ask my mum for a recipe, it's usually, "you add a bit of this, and some of that... I don't know, I just pour it in". Quantities seem to be elusive. And it was the same when I asked her for this recipe. Anything goes! You can opt for a vegetarian salad by leaving out the chicken, and you can amp up the zest and seasoning by adding more lemon juice and salt and pepper to your dressing. If you don't like a certain vegetable, or don't have it in the fridge already, then substitute it for whatever you have or another of your favourtie vegetables. I highly recommend mum's combination though. With the pepper of the rocket, sweetness of the tomato, crunch of the snow peas, and saltiness of the cheese, it's a real treat for the tastebuds.
I know, there's a bit of cutting involved, but don't let that deter you. Just put some music on and start slicing - it won't take longer than 10 minutes. My mum seemed to really enjoy the preparation when she made this - the bowl she served could have easily fed five or six people! Which was perfect actually, because I left her house with a little packed lunch for the next day :)
- Rinse the quinoa and add to a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer with the lid on for 10 - 15 minutes. Once the liquid has been absorbed, remove the pot from heat and stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
- Slice the chicken in small pieces and fry in a frypan. Set the chicken aside to cool. Pour the leaves into a large bowl and when there is a small amount of warmth in the chicken, mix it through the leaves - you want the leaves to wilt just slightly.
- Mix up the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Combine the quinoa with the chicken and leaves, and gently stir though the vegetables, feta, sundried tomatoes and dressing. Top with slivered almonds.
Tips from the author
If you prefer cooked vegetables in a salad, then quinoa is also a great base for this. When I want a salad that will last me a few days for easy lunches, I like to toss roasted sweet potato, tomatoes, eggplant through quinoa with sesame oil and serve it on a bed of baby spinach. This topped feta and some sultanas for sweetness is very satisfying.