As we transition into spring, enjoying warmer sunnier days, we begin to naturally yearn for fresh flavoursome salads. Warming winter food, however, can still be all that we feel like, the weather can certainly chop and change (.. especially in Melbourne!). Cool spring days may call for soups and curries but nourishing hearty salads can also hit the spot. This one’s particularly nice, a beautiful wholesome salad that’s delicious served any way – warm or cold, on it’s own, as a side dish or mixed with other things such as feta, leafy greens, boiled egg or slithers of cooked chicken. It’s a very versatile one, and one that in my experience is always well loved at dinner parties and BBQs.
In August and September pumpkin is in season so is easy to find and incredibly fresh. Black quinoa is a lovely nutty grain – I tend to use black and red quinoa more often than white as the texture and flavour of the darker varieties I feel is a little nicer. When cooked, black and red quinoa also tends to hold their moreish chewy texture a little better. Having said that, white quinoa would work perfectly in this salad too. Or, you could use a ‘tricolour’ quinoa, a mix of all three types, which would be delicious as well as visually beautiful.
The combination of quinoa, pecans and seeds in this salad provide wonderful protein, fibre and beautiful crunch. The fresh herbs, currants and fresh lemon dressing really make this salad I feel. The dressing’s subtle zestiness ties all flavours together. It’s a real favourite of ours; I always try to make that little bit more to ensure plenty of leftovers. Leftovers for lunch are gooooooood. I hope you like it too.
Prep time: 20-30mins
Cooking time: ~30-40mins (Roasting the pumpkin takes a little time, yet everything else is easy and quick)
Serves: This makes a nice plate full to serve as a side salad for 4-6 people.
For the salad:
- ¼ of a Japanese pumpkin, sliced into nice chunky pieces
- ¼ cup quinoa (black, red, white or mixed)
- ¼ of a bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves removed
- ¼ of a bunch coriander, leaves removed
- ¼ of a bunch mint, leaves removed
- A good handful of pecans
- A handful of pumpkin seeds
- ~ 1 Tbsp. currants (Tip: to bring out the flavour of the currants, soak in a little boiling water with some added fresh lemon juice or verjuice for about 10mins, then drain and add to salad. When soaked they provide juicy bursts of tangy sweetness)
For the dressing:
- The juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- ~ 1/2 tsp. maple syrup
A few nice ingredient variations (just some extra ideas):
- Feta is lovely crumbled over the salad – Goat feta or cow’s milk feta are both amazing.
- If you love haloumi, try tossing through pieces of pan-fried haloumi.
- Instead of pecans, try roasted almonds or walnuts.
- For a little more freshness and green, add baby spinach leaves.
- Sliced avocado works beautifully in this salad too.
- For more heartiness, try adding legumes such as chickpeas or cooked and cooled French lentils.. or slithers of cooked chicken or beef.
- Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper, place pumpkin pieces on paper, drizzle a little olive oil over the pumpkin and move and flip pieces so that both sides of each have a touch of oil. Season with salt and cracked pepper and roast in oven. Depending on thickness of pieces these will need between 30-40mins. Roast until the pumpkin flesh is soft and becomes a little caramelised and the skins are crispy.
- While the pumpkin is roasting, place quinoa in a small saucepan with water to cover and bring the boil. Then lower to low heat so that the quinoa is simmering. Simmer for about 10-15mins, until the quinoa is cooked yet still a little chewy. Rinse and drain, and set aside.
- To roast pecans: Place pecans in a small cake tin or on a baking tray (lined with baking paper) and roast in oven until they begin to brown. This should take about 5-7mins. Once lightly roasted remove from oven and allow to cool.
- To toast seeds: Place pumpkin seeds in a non-stick fry pan and toast on medium heat, for about 5-7mins, moving the seeds around every now and then, so that that they brown evenly. Once seeds are a little browned remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Wash parsley and chop roughly, and wash mint and coriander leaves and rip up – ripping mint and coriander leaves brings out the flavour and prevents the leaves from bruising (they tend to stay fresher for longer, hold their flavour better and also just look nicer).
- Once pumpkin is nicely roasted remove from oven.
- Then, place a serving platter on your kitchen bench; add a little quinoa, then some herbs, then pumpkin pieces, then some quinoa and herbs, currants, seeds and pecans. Layer until you’ve used all ingredients.
- To make dressing: In a little bowl mix together the lemon juice and maple syrup using a fork, then add olive oil, salt and pepper and mix until combined. Pour over the salad and lightly toss. And, viola! Serve as a main salad with a side of crunchy bread.. or just as is.. or with boiled eggs.. or add a little feta and leafy greens.. enjoy however you like. This salad keeps well in the fridge for a few days too.