1. It must be delicious
2. It must look gorgeously festive
3. It must be foolproof
4. The ingredients can be prepped ahead and the salad thrown together an hour or two before the feast.
5. It must have allergen friendly options so you do not need to worry about starving those with challenged immunity.
Armed with my list, I scour my database for inspiration and it is hard to miss the prevalence of quinoa and its many incarnations. It is so versatile and can be teamed with an array of stunning ingredients. It retains its integrity whilst carrying its guests with equal amounts of humilty and charisma.
BINGO! We have lift off. Now what shall we add to the quinoa?
- for flavour, a delicious zesty dressing made from pomegranate molasses, olive oil and garlic
- for texture, loads of fresh herbs
- for colour, pomegranate seeds, toasted pistachios or roasted chickpeas and goat's fetta.
AND it can all be prepped ahead and stored in containers in the fridge until you are ready to throw it together.
Quinoa has really taken over from cous cous on the culinary front and as it is gluten free it is an incredibly handy pantry ingredient. It can also be stored, cooked in the fridge for a few days.
Quinoa is not a grain but a highly nutritious seed which unlike most plant sources actually contains all of the essential amino acids - so truly fabulous for vegetarians, coeliacs and all self respecting foodies.
Quinoa comes in red, white and black and sometimes mixed together as tricolour. Cooking times vary slightly between them but as a general rule the white tends to cook more quickly than the red and tricolour, so adjust accordingly.
NOW ON WITH THE SHOW
The sweet potato can be cooked in advance, the dressing made a day ahead, the herbs can be washed, dried and plucked a few days in advance. Just wrap in a clean Tea towel and store in a plastic bag or container in the crisper until needed. Even the pomegranate can be seeded a day ahead.
The full delicious salad recipe follows, so if you know how to cook quinoa go to it directly.
I do hope you enjoy it.
Conventional cooking method
Measure 1 cup quinoa and rinse well in warm water until water runs clear. Drain well and then soak in 1 cup water for 30 minutes (if using the cooktop method, rinse and soak in a small saucepan).
The reason we are draining the quinoa well is that we are cooking the quinoa using the absorption method and too much water will make it gluggy and then it's yuk!
Bring the quinoa and water to the boil, reduce to a simmer, remove the lid and cook for 10 minutes for white. After the 10 minutes, stir with a fork and check for the presence of "halos", a white ring that forms around each grain. If this is present then the quinoa is cooked. If there are some grains without haloes it does not matter, it will continue to cook a little once removed from the heat.
Transfer to a shallow plastic container and place in the fridge uncovered.
Thermomix cooking method
As in the conventional method measure, rinse and soak your quinoa (in a bowl)
After 20 minutes, transfer the quinoa to the thermomix basket and fill the bowl with 1 litre of water. Cook 11 minutes, aroma, speed 2. Stir well, transfer to a plastic container and store in the fridge until needed.
Herbed quinoa & sweet potato salad with christmas sprinkles
serves 8 - 10 as a side salad
1kg sweet potato, peeled, cut to 1cm cubes
1 cup Quinoa of choice
1 cup water
20ml pomegranate molasses (from good delis)
40ml olive oil
20ml lemon or lime juice
zest of 1 lime
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
fresh ground black pepper
sea salt to taste
½ teaspoon sumac
1½ cup coriander leaves, chopped
¾ cup Parsley, chopped
½ cup Mint, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
100g Pistachios, toasted, roughly chopped OR
100g roasted spiced chickpeas
100g Meredith valley goat’s fetta, crumbled
1 Pomegranate - seeds
For the pomegranate seeds
Slice pomegranate in half around the equator and holding half in your hand, cut side down over a bowl, bash the skin side with a heavy wooden spoon. The seeds will fall into your hand. Pick out and discard any white pith. Store in a container in the fridge for a day.