Having spent several years working for a Middle Eastern airline, I developed a fascination and taste for the cuisine and one of my favourites is the Lebanese salad, Tabbouleh.
Traditionally made with bulgur wheat this recipe uses quinoa. An ancient food, first cultivated by the Incas, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) looks like a grain, but actually is a seed loosely related to chard and spinach. It comes in several colours, red, white and black and has a lovely earthy, nutty flavour. It has a great nutritional profile too boasting a high protein content along with fibre and a range of minerals including zinc, magnesium and Vitamin B1. Unlike some plant proteins, quinoa is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own.
Quinoa is also naturally gluten-free and can be eaten safely for those with a gluten intolerance or allergy such as coeliac disease.
It's hardy, too, and so drought-resistant that the United Nations has designated quinoa a super-crop for its potential to feed the poor.
It is also grown here in the UK which is even better for the environment.
Stuck for time, having a box of pre-cooked quinoa, like I used here, is a great pantry staple. Simply bring to the boil and cover for 6 minutes, turn off the heat and leave for 20 minutes. Soft fluffy quinoa every time.
Method and Ingredients.
Do your mise-en-place, gather all that you will need.
About 600g cooked quinoa.
300g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Handful chopped parsley
Handful chopped mint
4 scallions (green onions), I omitted them as we don't do well with raw onion
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to season
2 packs of halloumi
Pesto sauce, for brushing
For the dressing:
About 140g tahini
100ml fresh lemon juice, or more if you like it really tangy
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Filtered water to adjust consistency
Sea salt to season
Preheat the grill to medium high and line a baking tray with parchment.
Slice the halloumi and brush with pesto and place on the parchment.
Meanwhile, to a medium bowl, add the cooled cooked quinoa, the veg, herbs, oil and seasoning and gently stir to combine.
When the grill is ready, pop the cheese under for 4-6 minutes or until golden, turn half way.
Prepare the dressing. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt to a mini processor. Add in some olive oil and water to adjust consistency and flavour.
When the cheese is ready, simply plate up with salad leaves and enjoy.
Written by Patricia Alexander-Bird Dip NT, BANT
Nutritionist and Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner, Health and wellness Coach (in training), Yoga teacher (in training)