Book printing and quinoa

Michael (the designer) transferred Bill’s Kitchen (my new book in case you haven’t spotted this) by some internet-means to Hong Kong on Monday. So Ming and her printers are now busy printing. Dominic is busy contacting lots of potential reviewers and I’m reverting to my default life position of thinking about food. As well as preparing for our first ever food festival stall – a three day slot at Hereford’s second Indie Food festival where we’ll be selling sourdough spianata stuffed with either pulled Herefordshire brisket with coleslaw or grilled halloumi with baba ganoush and roast veg – I’ve been thinking about quinoa.

Quinoa and fresh herb salad with added red and yellow peppers

I’m always a bit suspicious of wonder ingredients that become ultra-fashionable so I’m generally a late-adopter. In fact one of our chefs (Pam Shookman, a healthy-living Canadian) first used Quinoa in our salads at The Place Below in the mid-1990s so at that point we were mildly avant-garde. However, we’ve been a long time giving it a regular place on our menu. A few weeks ago at All Saints (and coming soon to Michaelhouse) we started serving this deliciously perky variant on tabbouleh as one of our daily salad bowls and it’s going down a treat with the punters (as we affectionately call you lot). If I were making it at home I’d probably add half a clove of crushed garlic, but lunchtime office workers can be reluctant to breathe garlic fumes over their colleagues so we tend to be cautious in our raw garlic use at the cafes.

The one thing that we’ve learnt over the last few weeks is that it’s very easy to overcook quinoa. And claggy overcooked quinoa is like eating porridge in salad format – not attractive. So set a timer, drain thoroughly and then spread the drained quinoa out on a big tray to get rid of the steam as quickly as possible.

Lowri, our head chef in Hereford, suggested the diced raw courgettes. I was doubtful, but actually they’re great so long as you use really firm fresh courgettes and dice them very small. It’s a pretty flexible recipe especially in relation to which veg and which toasted seeds you use.

Small supermarket bunches of fresh herbs normally weigh about 30g, so you need three bunches of flat parsley of that size for this salad. Don’t skimp on the herbs.

Quinoa and fresh herb salad

serves 6-8 as part of a mixed salad plate

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
200g quinoa
300g courgettes, diced ½ cm
150g fine beans, cut in 3
90g flat parsley, roughly chopped
30g mint, leaves stripped from the stalks and roughly chopped
1 tbs capers, drained and roughly chopped
75ml olive oil
2 lemons, juice of
1 tsp salt

25g pumpkin seeds
½ tsp salt

  1. Rinse quinoa very thoroughly to remove bitterness. Boil in plenty of water for 15 minutes, then drain thoroughly and spread out so that it cools and doesn’t go too stodgy
  2. Bring another pan of water to the boil and boil the green beans for about 3 minutes until just tender. Drain.
  3. Remove only the woodiest stalks from the herbs. You can use most of the parsley stalks apart from the fattest. The mint stalks tend to be all woody so discard them. Then roughly chop the herbs.
  4. Mix everything except the pumpkin seeds and their salt very well together.
  5. Toast the pumpkin seeds with the salt either in a dry pan on the hob or in a fairly hot oven and sprinkle over the top of the serving bowl.