Crunchy quinoa salad

This dish is really nice for a late summer's lunch or supper. It makes use of some seasonal raw courgette, carrot and crisp baby cucumber that we grow on our Hertfordshire allotment and tasty quinoa which ups its protein content.

It's satisfying but light, so ideal after yoga practice or a few hours before, or if you just have a busy day and need some good fuel. Some mixed seeds/nuts and avocado add to its nutritional value.

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Some of our mid-August allotment bounty, sun included

If you're not familiar with quinoa, it contains all the essential amino acids, plus B vitamins, fibre and minerals and is considered to be a complete protein. It is gluten-free. It looks quite like couscous, but I prefer it in terms of both texture and taste. To my surprise and delight my son (then 4) took to quinoa immediately when we had it with a veggie casserole.

The idea of using ribbons or strips of vegetables comes from a couple of places: my memory of enjoying 'carottes râpées' as a teenager in France - a salad of grated carrots with a vinaigrette - and cooking courgette ribbons for speed, whether to have with pasta or butter beans and spices.

Serves one generously, or share with a friend:

Ingredients
Quarter of a cup of quinoa
1 tsp vegetable stock
Handful sultanas (optional)
Handful mixed seeds/nuts
1 medium-sized courgette
1 medium-sized carrot
1 baby cucumber
1 avocado, in chunks
Lettuce leaves
Half a red pepper, thinly sliced
Vinaigrette of your choice

Feel free to experiment by including your favourite leaves, fruit (dried or fresh) or veg. Some feta or grilled halloumi would work well too if you fancied it.

Method
Cook your quinoa according to pack instructions but with the sultanas and stock powder for flavour. I cheat a little by adding boiling water rather than cold to save time, and it comes out perfectly.

While that's cooking, use a wide or julienne peeler to make your carrot, cucumber and courgette ribbons. Cut your red pepper into fine strips. Prepare your salad leaves if necessary. Dry-fry or roast your mixed seeds/nuts if you prefer them like this, or just use them straight from a pack that you can buy in supermarkets (natural, not salted).

QuinoaPrep

If you don't already have some vinaigrette to hand, bring together 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar or lemon juice with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, a splash of agave/honey and a little Dijon or wholegrain mustard if you like. Keep what you don't use on this dish for another occasion.

Once the quinoa is cooked, fork through and spread out onto a plate to cool a little. After that, it's just a case of layering: lettuce leaves, quinoa, carrots/courgettes/cucumber, red pepper, avocado, seeds/nuts and vinaigrette. Or mix it all together casually if you prefer.

I've also seen an ingenious idea for a packed lunch salad and this would work here too. Take an old jam jar or other container. Put the vinaigrette in first, then the veg, quinoa, avocado (squeeze some fresh lemon juice on to prevent it from discolouring), lettuce leaves and nuts/seeds. When you are ready to eat, turn it upside down for a minute so that the vinaigrette reaches the ingredients at the other end of the jar. Et voilà.

QuinoaPackedLunch

This is so good (and healthy) you can't help but devour it - slowly and mindfully - and preferably outdoors. It's also great as a side dish for parties or a BBQ.

Photos: author's own

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