Quinoa Salad with Peach, Pomegranate & Pecans
…and feta. But it was already a mouthful of a title. A bit like the salad itself. This is no plate of floppy iceberg and not much else – no, this is salad done my way! Full of flavours that feel just right together, and gorgeous textures from silky smooth chunks of feta to the gentle exotic crunch of pomegranate seeds and pecans, this salad is summery and satisfying. And beyond tasting gorgeous, it’s a relatively low-carb dish (the bulk of the carbs come from the quinoa, pomegranate and peach, which can be reduced a little if you wanted to) that’s packed full of superfood goodness. Quinoa is an ancient grain which has gained popularity in recent years, and with good reason – it is one of the only plant-based source of complete protein, that is, it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids that are crucial to human function and health. It is also gluten free. In addition to the majestic quinoa, pomegranate is well known as an excellent source of antioxidants as well as vitamins A, C, E and iron. The spinach, rocket and watercress salad is a great source of vitamin A, and there is also plenty of protein provided by the feta, pecans and Quorn sliced fillets. *2017 UPDATE*: If you’re vegan, just omit the feta and gently fry and cool some Fry’s chicken-style strips instead. This really is a super salad; and what’s more, it tastes fabulous.
For the peach vinaigrette:
1 peeled and sliced peach (or about 100g tinned peaches – drain and rinse thoroughly.)
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tbsp cider (or white wine) vinegar
1 tbsp Olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Blitz everything in a mini chopper or use a jug and a hand blender. Set aside in the fridge until required. It will sit happily in the fridge for a few days so don’t be afraid to make it in advance!
For the salad:
140g quinoa (Makes about 420g cooked weight)
Seeds of 1 pomegranate (or about 100g. Alternatively you can just buy a tub of just the seeds in the supermarket)
80g (minimum) bag of salad – I like a rocket, spinach and watercress mix
200g vegetarian feta cheese (sometimes labelled ‘salad cheese’)
1 x 140g pack of ready-to-eat Quorn ‘sliced fillets’ (find it near the packets of ham etc in the supermarket)
Fresh chopped mint to garnish (optional)
Cook the quinoa. The exact instructions will be found on the packet, but I always find quinoa needs to cook in about five times its own volume of water. This recipe calls for 140g of quinoa, so bring about 700ml to the boil in a large pan.
Add the quinoa (rinse it first), return to the boil and cook for 20 minutes. The grain will look ‘separated’ – quinoa has a soft exterior while remaining ever so slightly crunchy in the centre. The idea is that the quinoa will absorb all the water, but it doesn’t always work like that. If the grain is cooked, you can drain off the excess water in a fine mesh colander and then return the quinoa to the pan. Fork through it and let it sit for ten minutes with the lid clamped on. It will ‘dry out’ a bit (you don’t want a plateful of really soggy quinoa.) As with the dressing, you can make this in advance. To help it cool quicker so that you can store it in the fridge, just rinse it with cold water, drain thoroughly and store. You’ll find it will dry out a bit in the fridge, too.
Prepare the salad:
Remove the seeds from the pomegranate by slicing through the middle as shown above. Hold each half over a bowl and batter with a wooden spoon, Nigella-style, so that the seeds drop out into the bowl underneath. You might need to squeeze the pomegranate a little bit to help loosen the seeds, and a fork is helpful for removing the last pesky ones. Just make sure you’re wearing an apron, as the red juice tends to get everywhere. Drain the seeds (drink the juice!).
Line each plate with salad as you please. I found an 80g bag of rocket, watercress and spinach mix was enough for four plates but you can use as much as you like.
Once the quinoa has cooled down a bit, stir in 45ml – about 3 tablespoons – of the peach vinaigrette. Try to coat the grains as evenly as possible, then spoon the grains on to the salad leaves, in fairly equal amounts (about 100g per person) so each plate is the same. Make sure to fork through any grains that might have clumped a bit. Now scatter the feta (if it’s not already in cubes, cut into approximately 1cm chunks), Quorn sliced fillets, pecans and pomegranate seeds over the quinoa and salad. Push some of these additions gently into the quinoa to give it a jumbled-up appearance. Finish by drizzling a couple of tablespoons of dressing over each plate and garnish with a little chopped mint, if you like.
If you intend to eat this over a few days, you can either prepare and store everything separately in tubs in the fridge and put it together as above for a neat looking meal, or, if you don’t mind it looking a bit of a mess, you can gently mix everything into the cooked quinoa (once cooled, remember to add a little peach vinaigrette to it as above) and keep in one big tub. When you are ready to eat it, spoon a portion out on to some salad and finish with a little extra dressing.