- Difficulty Easy
This month we’ve had lots of relaxed late afternoon/early evening dinners with friends. And there’s nothing better in Summer than light, healthy and ‘quick to whip up’ salads.
Enter Quinoa Salad with Pearl Cous Cous, Lentils, Mint & Fetta.
With many of my other mum friends we all make it our mission to ensure that each time we get together, it’s a minimum of fuss for everyone – the hosting mum included. So each of us will bring something to contribute towards the meal.
Last weekend I was on salad – and it needed to be large enough for 8 adults. I knew my mum friend was putting butterflied lamb legs on the Barbie so I devised a salad that would complement the lamb nicely.
Knowing there is nothing better than mint and fetta with lamb, my Quinoa Salad with Pearl Cous Cous, Lentils, Mint & Fetta was born.
Sound complicated? Don’t be alarmed. This is completely achievable by anyone and everyone who wants a super easy (and impressive looking salad).
First things first:
What is Quinoa? What is Pearl Cous Cous?
If you haven’t been following a couple of trends in grains, you would have missed that Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a great way to introduce much needed fibre into your diet.
It’s very easy to cook, puts an interesting twist on salads and is often used as a healthy alternative to white rice. My kids actually love it – they call it ‘birdseed’ and pretend they are Peach Faces pecking away! Up until a little while ago, Quinoa lived in the health food stores and was considered a little bit hippy or gourmet and not really a mainstream ingredient.
But no more – Once you know how with Quinoa, you’ll never go back!
Pearl Cous Cous, while possibly not one of the higher ranking wholegrains or sources of fibre given it’s essentially little tiny balls of pasta, is nonetheless a really interesting texture to feature in a salad. It’s much larger than standard cous cous and as such doesn’t run the risk of being clumpy and gluey in consistency. It’s quite silky and if cooked al dente, is a beautiful bite. Like Quinoa, I used to find it in Fruit & Veg/Specialty Grocers whereas now it sits on shelf in the major supermarkets alongside standard and flavoured cous cous.
My food is always simple (& cheap) to shop for.
You know that I love to cook by now but what I perhaps haven’t ever told you is that I’m not much of a shopper. More than a quick whip around the shops does my head in and my feet and back start to ache. So searching high and low for ingredients is not my thing – if it’s not available in the supermarket, it doesn’t show up on my table. That may limit my options occasionally but it’s a choice I make to keep my shopping routine simple.
What you’ll need for this salad:
1 packet of Pearl Cous Cous (I was very happy to find this right beside the standard and flavoured Cous Cous at Coles)
1 packet of Quinoa (again, look in the Coles Organic section – the Quinoa I used was Coles brand and was in a brown cardboard box)
1 can Brown Lentils (again, I was in Coles so bought the Coles brand – it is just as great as the branded Lentils. If I was in Woolies, I would buy the Select brand – they’re all good)
½ bunch of fresh Mint
1/3 packet of Craisins (look in the dried fruit section of the supermarket)
1 tub of South Cape Persian Fetta (this is my all time favourite brand of Fetta as it comes in olive oil with chunks of garli, bay leaves and peppercorns in the tub)
1 lemon, Salt & Pepper, ½ Spanish Onion & Chicken Stock (I’m in love with the stock in the squeezy tube at the moment)
Prepping all the Salad elements:
Prepare the Pearl Cous Cous by cooking the entire packet (500g) – cover the pearl cous cous with chicken stock and then add another 1cm of stock. Bring this to the boil on the stove and allow to simmer very gently until 99% of the water has been absorbed by the Pearl Cous Cous. Set aside off the heat to cool and continue absorbing the chicken stock. When tested, it should have the same consistency as al dente pasta.
Prepare the Quinoa by placing 1 part Quinoa to 2 parts water in a microwave safe bowl and cover. Cook on high for 10 minutes checking at about 7 minutes. Once the 10 minutes is up, leave it covered for another 10 to absorb any last water.
Note: if you like your Craisins a little plump rather than dried, pop them in with the Quinoa and add another ½ cup of water – they will absorb water just like the quinoa and come out plumpish.
Prepare the Brown Lentils by placing the lentils into a sieve/strainer and rinsing with cold water. Leave to drain.
Finely slice the Spanish Onion, roughly tear up the mint leaves, squeeze the juice of a lemon into a cup and set aside, slice chunks of the lemon rind to garnish later and separate the fetta cheese from it’s olive oil.
Combine the olive oil from the fetta cheese with the lemon juice, a good sprinkle of cracked pepper and whisk it together (this creates a salad dressing). I also throw in the peppercorns and the chunk of garlic for texture, zing and interest.
Bringing the Quinoa Salad together:
All that’s left to do is to gently combine all of the ingredients together with the dressing and toss lightly.
MoM Tip: To get that ‘just styled’ look, I always keep a few little pieces of each colourful/interesting ingredient (i.e. Craisins, mint, Fetta, Spanish Onion & lemon chunks) aside and then position them once I’ve plated up the salad.
Plate up on a platter!
I love to put my salads onto big, flat platters – there’s something sumptuous about being able to see it so clearly (rather than being hidden down in a bowl). If you don’t have a platter, think about a clear glass dish – we have a oversized clear glass salad bowl with high sides and it looks fabulous to see all the ingredients through the glass.
Pop your few extra pieces of lemon, fetta, mint & onion randomly on top an voila! Quinoa Salad with Pearl Cous Cous, Lentils, Mint & Fetta.
If you like the idea of these flavours, you might also be interested in:
Let us know you’re reading mums – Did you know what Quinoa was before today? Do you think you’d ever use it? What’s your favourite salad? Show us some love with a comment …