Thankfully, the recent popularity of couscous and, to a lesser extent, bulgar wheat, have paved the way for a quinoa renaissance of sorts. With an increased appreciation of grains as a healthier alternative to traditional carbs, quinoa is no longer the preserve of sandal wearing hippies and long forgotten Incas. This once sacred grain is now the darling of the health conscious and has even sneaked into the hearts of some of the most ferocious carnivores among us, myself included!
Which brings me to this awesome salad.
Packed with the best of nature, this salad tastes like Spring on-a-plate and makes for an excellent side dish to a braai or just as a great vegan/vegetarian dinner. I must confess, this sort of food is not usually my style, but this fabulous salad was a result of the need to feed a guest who was on a restricted diet and my repertoire is all the better for it!
Forced to go “healthy” for the sake of my guest, I turned to the healthiest food I knew of – quinoa. Unfortunately, my previous experiences of this protein rich grain were limited to its popular use as a poor meat substitute in the 90s – not a great starting point for any dish! Nevertheless, after a flurry of panicked internet trawling and cookbook research, I discovered that quinoa has come along way since the days when it was relegated to being stuffed into vegan sausages.
Simple to cook and easy to digest, quinoa was an absolute revelation! Delightfully flavoured, quinoa is, in my opinion, far nicer than couscous (which can be rather dull) and bulgar wheat (which is, at best, indigestible). With its distinctly nutty flavour, quinoa is tasty without being overpowering, making it the perfect base for any tabbouleh style salad.
So, quite unexpectedly I find myself in love with quinoa…and after you try this dish, the chances are you will be too.
Quinoa & Chickpea Salad with Asparagus, Avocado and Sugar Snap Peas: Serves 4 as a side dish
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 80g asparagus, cut into 2cm lengths
- 80g sugar snap peas
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1/2 lemon (juiced and zested)
- 4 radishes, very thinly sliced
- 4 tbsp. Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
- 100g soft goat’s cheese (I used Fairview’s Chevin)
- Salt and pepper
- Pour the boiling water into a medium saucepan with a lid. Add the olive oil and a small pinch of salt. When the water comes back to the boil, add the quinoa and stir. Again bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover the saucepan with a lid. Cook for 20 minutes, after which take off the heat and set aside (with the lid still on) for 15 minutes. Once the time is up, place the cooked quinoa in a bowl and allow to cool
- Fill a large bowl with water and plenty of ice
- In a second pot, bring some lightly salted water to the boil and then blanch the asparagus and sugar snap peas for 3 minutes. Once cooked drain the vegetables and place them in the iced water for 30 seconds. Remove the vegetables and lightly pat dry with a clean tea-towel
- In a large mixing bowl, add the cooled quinoa, chickpeas, asparagus, avocado, snap peas, radishes, parsley and chives. Finish with the lemon zest and juice. Stir to combine. Check for seasoning
- Dot the salad with the goat’s cheese and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Finish with a final crack of black pepper