I’m continuing my theme of What My Book Characters Eat this week with a recipe for a winter quinoa salad!
It may be summer over in the northern hemisphere but here in Australia, it’s brisk and chilly and the perfect time for a warm winter salad. But I think this salad would be great chilled summertime too – so it’s really an all-seasons salad! Plus, it has less than 10 ingredients and is really simple and quick to make. Simple and easy recipes are the best!
In my current WIP, my characters spend much of their time in the first half of the story in a cottage deep in a dark gloomy wood. The wood is magical and hunting is forbidden. So what do they live on? Vegetables from the garden, cheeses, milk and eggs from the domestic animals they keep, and wild fruits and herbs from the forest. Supplies from town are also delivered by a mischievous apple-cheeked farm boy who does not fear the wood – or my characters – and amongst his supplies include grains, cheeses and cured meats. So they spend a lot of their time eating hearty soups and stews, casseroles and pies, fresh-baked bread and fresh greens including salads bulked up with wild grains.
Note: Quinoa is essentially an ancient South American grain only made popular in recent times in our modern world, but as my characters live in an alternate medieval world setting, I like to imagine they’ve got access to this grain via an exotic sort of international traders’ market. (Hey, in fantasy, anything can happen!)
I’ve always been a fan of quinoa because I love the texture and taste of those little beads of quinoa popping in my mouth. Plus, I love that it’s a grain that fills you up without that uncomfortably bloated feeling you can get with rice or couscous.
I’m used to ordering quinoa in cafes and restaurants, but it’s only in the last few weeks or so that I’ve tried my hand at cooking it at home. Unfortunately, my first attempt at home cooked quinoa was not the best, to say the least. It was super bitter, even with the addition of lemon juice. I knew right away that I needed something more to dress the quinoa with so it tastes just like it does in restaurants.
When I told a friend about my disastrous first attempt at cooking quinoa, she advised me to try using chicken stock instead of water. I followed her advice – and you know what? It was AMAZING. I am now a major advocate of cooking quinoa in stock and I don’t think I will ever cook it any other way again! It just adds a whole new dimension of amazing flavour and is oh so darn tasty! And if you run out of chicken stock like I did, you can even use beef stock or vegetarian stock. Any kind of stock will do! Paired with salad and a soup, it is just simply the bomb.
Winter Quinoa Salad
- One cup of quinoa
- Two cups chicken stock (see note)
- Several generous handfuls of rocket leaves (I didn’t actually measure this, but just use the same amount you would for making up a usual green salad)
- One punnet cherry tomatoes
- 1-2 mandarins
- Olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
Note: When I cook my quinoa, I do it according to the directions on the back of the package it comes in – one cup of quinoa to 1 and 1/4 cups of water. However, in this recipe, I list the ratio of chicken stock to two cups because that is the general ratio given online for basic quinoa cooking – two cups of water to one cup of quinoa. I’m not sure why the brand of quinoa I use gives a different ratio but it works so I decided not to change it (after all, why fix something if it ain’t broke). So just measure the ratios according to how you would usually cook your quinoa or according to the measurements given on the back of the package your quinoa comes in!
Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve mesh. Combine quinoa with chicken stock in a pot and bring to the boil on the stove. Lower to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa has fully absorbed liquid, stirring all the while. Remove pot from pan and leave quinoa for 5-10 minutes to fluff.
Rinse and halve cherry tomatoes. Peel and deseed mandarins and halve the segments.
Combine rocket, cherry tomatoes and mandarins in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar and toss. Add quinoa to salad and mix well.
Serve and enjoy!