With the sweltering heat in London town, it seems summer has finally crept up on us at last and heavy foods just don't cut the mustard in the heat. I crave lighter more refreshing dishes like salads and simple grilled meat and fish and salads don't always have to be made with boring lettuce leaves.
Quinoa (Keen-wah) is one of my favourite grains and it is an ancient grain of Peruvian origin, named after a town called 'Quinua'. It's consumption can be traced back 4,000 years and unalike most other grains, it is deemed as a complete source of protein meaning it contains all the 9 essential amino acids necessary for our dietary needs.
Flavourwise, don't expect too much. It has no major distinguishable flavour but absorbs the flavours of whichever ingredients you pair with it, rather beautifully. It is a very delicate grain and requires no more than 7-8 minutes cooking and this makes it perfect for a quick lunch or dinner.
Sumac is one of my favourite spice seasonings and of course the fact that it is Persian, is an added bonus. Its almost citrusy nature makes it a perfect partner for lemon dressings and I just love using it with salads and none more than this particular recipe for a fantastic summer salad packed with healthy ingredients and full-on flavour.
Quinoa Salad with Puy Lentils & Lemon Sumac Dressing (Serves 6 as a side dish)
200g of Quinoa
250g of Puy Lentils
1 large bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley (or 3 small packs), finely chopped
2 small packets of fresh mint, finely chopped
500g of baby tomatoes (I use Pomodorinos or Baby Plum) halved
1 heaped tablespoon of sumac
1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
Maldon sea salt
Boil (seperately) the Quinoa and Puy Lentils per the packet instructions until cooked and rinse well in cold water, drain and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add your halved tomatoes, chopped herbs, spring onions a very generous amount of olive oil (about 5-6 tablespoons) and the juice of 2 whole lemons (or 3 if you prefer) along with your sumac. Add several generous pinches of crushed Maldon sea salt and a generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper and mix all the ingredients well. Add your Quinoa and Puy lentils and stir all the ingredients well to ensure they are evenly mixed through and that the dressing coats the Quinoa an Puy Lentils. Taste the salad and adjust the seasoning if desired.
I like to refrigerate this salad for an hour or two before serving to allow the flavours to have time to work their way in to the Quinoa and lentils but also serving a nice cool salad on a hot day, is the perfect way to refresh and satisfy your guests!