Autumn Quinoa Salad

Ever since I tried the amazing heritage tomatoes from Jenny McNally’s stall in the Temple Bar Farmer’s Market I’ve been trying to think of a recipe worthy of blogging about. Unfortunately these tomatoes are so good all I’ve been doing is eating them with a bit of Maldon salt or maybe as part of a Caprese salad with the equally amazing Toonsbridge mozzarella. Given that I’m pretty sure nobody needs instructions on how to salt a tomato this had left me at a bit of a loss as to what to write about.

With the season nearing its end I remembered that I still had one last quinoa salad in my series and what better way to finish up than with the last of some of my favourite vegetables: tomatoes, aubergines, fennel and peppers. I initially thought I was basing this dish on caponata but when I look at the ingredients now it it’s actually closer to ratatouille than anything else.

There’s also a Spanish influence with the addition of toasted almonds and a Romesco style puree made from the roasted peppers. In fact, this sauce was a revelation and it strikes me as very versatile: I could see it working well with fish or chicken especially.  It’s is a good thing too because I made way too much and will have to find a use for the leftovers still in my fridge!

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Autumn Quinoa Salad

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

For the roasted pepper sauce
Grape seed oil
1 red pepper
½ clove garlic, crushed
5g hot smoked paprika
150g Greek style yoghurt
Salt

For the quinoa salad
Olive oil
3 springs thyme
1 medium aubergine, chopped into 2.5cm pieces
1 large fennel bulb, chopped into 8 pieces
3 large tomatoes, quartered
150g quinoa
250g vegetable stock
5g fennel seeds, toasted and ground
15g pine nuts
15g almond flakes
2.5ml red wine vinegar
Salt

Method:

  1. For the roasted pepper sauce, cut the pepper in half and rub the skin with some oil.
  2. Place cut side down under a grill and roast until the skin is completely black.
  3. When done, wrap the pepper halves in cling film and leave to cool for 15 minutes.
  4. Peel the blackened skin off and put the pepper’s flesh in a blender.
  5. Add the garlic, paprika and yoghurt to the blender and process until smooth.
  6. Season to taste and reserve in the fridge.
  7. For the quinoa salad, preheat an oven to 180°C.
  8. Place the aubergine, fennel and thyme in a baking tray and toss liberally with olive oil.
  9. Bake for around 25 minutes, shaking occasionally to ensure even cooking.
  10. Add the tomatoes to the tray and bake for another 25 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, add the quinoa to a pot with the vegetable stock.
  12. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a bare simmer.
  13. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid for 15 minutes.
  14. When the quinoa is done, remove from the heat and leave to steam for 5 minutes.
  15. Heat some olive oil in a pan over a medium heat.
  16. Add the pine nuts and almonds and cook until golden brown, around 2-3 minutes. Reserve.
  17. Place the quinoa in a large bowl and add the roasted vegetables (with the thyme stalks removed) and ground fennel.
  18. Pour in the red wine vinegar and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Adjust the seasoning if required.
  19. Divide the salad between two bowls and sprinkle with the nuts; drizzle over some of the roasted pepper sauce and serve the rest on the side.

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