Thursday, October 23, 2014

Moroccan Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

I was looking through my blog the other day, and was shocked to see how infrequent my posts have become. The reality is I am forever planning my next blog post, even if I never actually find time to get in the kitchen to make my recipe, take photographs and then write up about it. I often feel like much of my day is spent preparing breakfast, eating it, preparing lunch, eating it and preparing dinner just to eat it too. Don't get me wrong, food is my passion. But perhaps that's why as my days have become more and more busier in recent months, I've found less time to bake and dedicate my blog to posting about what 'Beela bakes.'

Instead I've become more inventive with my meals, and one of my favourite things is to come up with creative lunch options for my husband to take to work with him. And that's exactly how this Moroccan inspired quinoa salad came to be. In truth, the recipe for this quinoa salad is already about a year old now, and I have to admit that it's not really made solely for the husband anymore. But rather it has since become one of my favourites, if not the most favourite lunch to make.

This recipe gave birth to my love of roasting veggies, as well as my love for this particular spice blend. It's become second nature to put the oven on whilst I quickly chop some carrot, beetroot and coloured peppers, and add in the amazing mixture of spices. In fact I don't really measure the spices out, and you don't have to stick to the measurements in the recipe below either. Sometimes I add some chopped broccoli or mushrooms too. For brussel sprout haters (me included) they work really well when roasted with the spice blend here - they actually become bearable, I promise! Regardless, the smell of these vegetables roasting in the oven makes this a lunch which I always look forward to, and which I'm pretty sure will have you wanting to make it a regular lunch too.

I've always loved strong spices and the combination of cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, paprika powders, as well as dried chilli flakes and a dried herb mix, really lifts the vegetables in this salad from just being an average quinoa salad into one that's special. Moroccan cuisine was definitely an inspiration here, hence the aptly named title, and I played on the idea of how cous cous could be swapped out for the quinoa. Feel free to also swap out the baby spinach for any salad leaves - I've often added mint, coriander or parsley too. 

The recipe below makes enough to share between two, and tastes just as great eaten the next day. Its healthy, filling, and so relevant to the types of nourishing wholesome salads which are so regularly craved today. I think its even great served as a sharing platter for entertaining guests. If you do only one thing from this recipe, have a go at roasting the veggies mentioned here (beetroot, carrot & coloured bell peppers) in the spices mentioned too. I've always loved my veggies, but it's given me a whole new love for them, and it just might for you too. 

Moroccan Veg Roasted Quinoa Salad

50g or half a carrot, peeled & cubed
40g red, orange or yellow peppers, diced
50g beetroot, peeled & cubed
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Pinch of paprika powder
Pinch of dried chili flakes
Pinch of mixed dried herbs (thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary all work well)
1 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp extra
80g quinoa (about half a cup)
1 cup water (chicken or vegetable stock if preferred)
Salt to season
2 cups baby spinach
Squeeze of lemon 

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Meanwhile prepare to cook the quinoa in a medium pan with the water or stock, using your usual method. See here for how to cook quinoa. (I don't always have stock on hand and add like a little dried stock cube to my pan if I'm only using water). 
2. Put the chopped carrot, beetroot and pepper into a small bowl. Add all the spices, season with salt and mix well so the spices are evenly distributed through the vegetables. Add one tablespoon of the olive oil and mix well until vegetables are coated.
3. Spread the vegetables evenly on a baking tray lined with foil and put in the oven to roast. Switch off the oven after fifteen minutes, but leave the vegetables to sit for a little while. 
4. In the bowl used to mix the vegetables, add the remaining one teaspoon of olive oil, plus a generous squeeze of lemon, mixing to catch all the remaining spice residue. Keep aside.
5. Prepare your serving dish by layering the spinach leaves first, and adding the cooked quinoa on top. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and add onto the quinoa. Use the reserved olive oil mix to pour over the salad.
6. Serve straight away or enjoy as leftovers the next day! 

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