Tuesday 31 July 2007

Crunchy Quinoa Salad with Beetroot and Feta

Anyone remember tabbouleh? This crunchy Lebanese salad, made with bulgur (or cracked wheat) , mint, parsley, tomatoes and spring onions, was a huge hit among health-conscious suburbanites during the eighties, but hardly anyone seems to make it nowadays. I suspect that the reason why it’s fallen out of favour is because it was so rough and filling (and more so when when washed down with few beers) that you ended up spending the entire night craftily flapping the duvet as you deflated in the dark.

I was feeling a bit nostalgic about my mom's tabbouleh, however, so I devised a new version, similar to the original but made with quinoa. This ancient South American staple is becoming increasingly popular among lentil-heads because of its unusually high protein content, its bouquet of healthy amino acids, and its romantic spiritual history*. It’s similar to bulgur, but lighter, fluffier and tastier - and I can assure you it’s lot less aggressive on the farting and bloating front.

What makes this salad so tasty is its abundance of chopped fresh herbs. Leave out the coriander if you must, but the mint and parsley are essential. Ask your local health shop for quinoa, or, if you live in Joeys, get it at Thrupps.

Crunchy Quinoa Salad with Beetroot and Feta

For the salad:
3-4 young beetroot, washed, topped and tailed (if you don't like beetroot, use finely sliced baby red cabbage, or grated radishes)
a lick of olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
½ cucumber, finely diced
2 plump, ripe tomatoes, diced
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped parsley
¾ cup (190 ml) finely chopped mint
¾ cup (190 ml) finely chopped fresh coriander
salt and milled black pepper
1 handful shelled pumpkin seeds (optional)
2 disks feta cheese, crumbled

For the dressing:
1 cup all-purpose cooking elixir**
Juice of one fat lemon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put the the beetroot on a large piece of tin foil, add a dribble of oive oil and a grinding of salt and pepper, and toss well to coat. Wrap into a loose parcel, place in the oven and bake until tender right through. (This can take between an hour and three, depending on the size and age of the beetroot). Remove, allow to cool slightly and slice into slim wedges. Put the dried quinoa into a sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Now put the quinoa, water and salt into a saucepan, set over a high flame and bring to the boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is fluffy and tender. While it’s cooking, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, spring onion and chopped herbs in a salad bowl. Drain the quinoa in a sieve and allow to cool for five minutes. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Now tip the warm quinoa into the salad bowl, pour over all but 2 tablespoons of the dressing and toss well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the beetroot slices, crumbled feta and pumpkin seeds. Shake the remaining dressing over the top of the salad so everything looks glossy. Allow to stand for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. Serve at room temperature with hot pita bread.

Serves 6.

** If you haven’t made all-purpose cooking elixir, use the following dressing:

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/3 cup sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon or seed mustard
2 tsp tahina (optional)

* Wikipedia says: 'The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as "chisaya mama" or "mother of all grains", and it was the Inca emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using 'golden implements'. During the European conquest of South America quinoa was scorned by the Spanish colonists as "food for Indians", and even actively suppressed, due to its status within indigenous non-Christian ceremonies.'
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Chef Erik said...

Would have never thought of this combo. Looks great, I'm going to make it at work tomarrow. Thanks!

Jane-Anne said...

Erik, thanks for the comment. I'm deeply flattered that a real chef would want to try my recipe! Let me know how it tastes.... Juno

Anonymous said...

Looks great, I'm gonna give this a go tonight, although I'm fancying goats cheese instead of feta mmm.Will let you know how it goes.

Unknown said...

Made it, thought it was great! Ended up straying quite a bit from the original recipe(oops!), but it was lovely none the less. Thanks!

Here's the report: