27 December 2015

Christmas Quinoa Salad - little bits of leftovers become lunchtime bounty

Christmas has come and gone and of course, we're left with a bit of this and a bit of that left over.  The question, therefore, is how to make best use of all these lovely bits.

Now my family are singularly useless at eating up leftovers, so it very often is left to me to finish up ingredients by making them into new dishes, to be served as my lunch.  A favourite for this, is the humble salad.  Salads are so convenient because they're relatively quick, very often only require the minimum of cooking (maybe a boiled egg, or some quinoa - as with this salad), are remarkably satisfying to eat and are full of nutrition.  Even more nutritious when you're using quinoa, of course.

The individual seeds of quinoa might be small, but they contain a good amount of dietary fibre and are packed with nutrients, including iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and vitamin E.  Goodness only knows where they put all those good things - they must have big pockets.  However, the good report doesn't stop there.  Quinoa is also a complete provider of protein – it contains all the amino acids we need, unlike rice and wheat.  It will lower cholesterol, is gluten free and as far as I know, does not cause allergies.  So provided you aren't like me and are put off (in a big way, it's taken me - literally - years to give it another go) by how the grains develop little tails (which is only the germ of the grain loosening from the main body as it softens) in the cooking, you have no reason to skip past it in the supermarket.

As a pre-Christmas surprise from my favourite people at Red Communications, I was sent three little jars of Quinoa from Peru - black, red and the standard white quinoa to sample and do something delicious with.  Now I can't say I was overjoyed at the prospect (I refer you back to my being put off by the little tails), however, I am nothing if not a game girl and decided to give it another chance.

So, I present to you my oh-so-tasty (and it really is!) Christmas Quinoa Salad which single-handedly takes care of your nutrition, whilst using up an inordinate amount of leftover salad or roasted veggies and those little pieces of cold roast meat that you look at and think "not enough for a soup, too much for a sandwich".

Roast duck with sumac & tangerine
The recipe is pretty free-form, you can use whatever salad vegetables you have on hand, or even cold roasted vegetables or cooked frozen peas.  In my case we had duck for our Christmas dinner, so it is duck that I've used as the meat component.  Any meat would work just perfectly, from cold roast turkey to leftover smoked salmon (I know, it's unlikely, but someone somewhere might have some!).

I didn't feel the need for a salad dressing, as the tomato juice coupled with the cranberry sauce did the job.  However, feel free to add a dressing of your choice, if that's what you fancy.  Oh, and a note regarding the sauce component - if you use a bird for your meat then cranberry is perfect.  Cold roast pork would demand apple sauce, roast beef would need horseradish, lamb could have mint or redcurrant jelly.  Pair them up according to what is traditional, or what you prefer.

As for quantity, the recipe as described will be sufficient for two as a light lunch with a soup or a small dessert or alternatively one hungry person i.e. me.


Ingredients :

a quarter of a cup of quinoa
a half a cup of water
half a tsp of reduced salt chicken stock powder (or just under half a reduced salt stock cube)
half a celery stick, halved lengthways and sliced
four slices of cucumber, quartered
a ripe, tasty tomato, cut into small chunks
a tiny carrot (I used a Chantenay carrot), sliced finely
three Little Gem lettuce leaves, sliced
1 tbsp cooked chestnuts, halved
1 green spring onion, sliced finely
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
100-150g cold roast meat of your choice (I used duck)
1 tsp of a tangy sauce to complement the meat (I used cranberry).

Method :

Pour the water into a small saucepan and add the stock powder.  Stir to combine whilst heating until almost boiling.  Add the quinoa and stir.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for around 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the quinoa is soft and the water has almost evaporated.

Remove from the heat and decant into a large flattish bowl.  Fluff the quinoa up with a fork, spread it out evenly and leave to cool.

In the meanwhile, prepare your vegetables, after which the quinoa should be cold.

Add the vegetables to the bowl (keeping a few green onion slices back for garnish), season with a tiny pinch of sea salt and the black pepper and lightly toss with the quinoa.

Add half of the meat and toss again, to combine.

Spread the remainder of the meat attractively across the surface of the salad and add small amounts of the sauce at strategic intervals.

Sprinkle the reserved green onion on top for garnish, take a photograph for posterity and tuck in!

(Taking the photograph is optional, of course, but if you should - do come to the Rhubarb & Ginger facebook page here and upload it.  I'd love to see your salad).

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