Asparagus Quinoa Salad

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Hasn’t June gotten off to the most miserable start – it feels like January – Shhhhh though, the asparagus doesn’t seem to have noticed, and has been abundant in the markets, green grocers and veg boxes for these last few weeks.  I thought it’d be best to simply ignore the rubbish weather, and create an early summer salad in a bid to try and coax the sun back out from that huge grey cloud.

So lets start June with an asparagus recipe.  I’ve been putting asparagus in nearly everything these last couple of weeks – pasta, salads, fritatta, on pizza, and just perfectly steamed with black pepper and lemon juice.

I wanted to write up a recipe that was light and summery to help usher in the longer days, perfect for a lunch in the garden – in amongst the nettles and half finished garden projects – if you can find a break in the rain.

Serves 4 as an indulgent main dish, or many more as part of a salad buffet.

  • 250g uncooked quinoa (£1.65)
  • 400ml water
  • 1 stock cube (20p)
  • 250g of asparagus (£2.50)
  • 60 ml of olive oil (41p)
  • The juice of 1 lemon – 40ml (50p)
  • 1 small red onion / shallot (10p)
  • 20g of fresh basil (35p)
  • 50g sun dried tomatoes (36p)
  • 50g capers (£1.19)
  • 50g pine nuts (£1.75)

Rinse the quinoa and then cook it using the absorption method with the water and crumbled up stock cube: put these 3 ingredients into a pan, pop the lid on and bring it to a rapid boil, continue to boil for 5 minutes and then turn the heat down low and simmer for another 15-20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.  The quinoa can then be taken off the heat and left in the warm pan to steam and when you’re ready you can fluff it up with a fork.

20160604-105256.jpgGriddle the asparagus, ideally in a griddle pan, but if you don’t have one of these it can be fried in a regular frying pan.  Brush the asparagus with oil, I prefer to use the oil that the sundried tomatoes are preserved in, and then let it colour on a high heat for about 3-5 minutes on each side – if your asparagus is really fine it may cook a lot quicker.  Once it’s done, slice it up into inch long chunks.

20160604-105343.jpgWhile this is all going on, make the dressing from the olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped basil and red onion or shallot.  You can stir it in a bowl, or pour it all into a jar and shake it about; or you can use a food processor to finely chop the onion and basil and then combine the oil and lemon juice… Whatever works for you.

Lastly, slice the sundried tomatoes and have the capers and pine nuts to hand.

When all these components are ready, just combine the asparagus (save some of the tips for later if you want to make it look super pretty on your serving plate), the dressing and the rest of the ingredients in the pan with the fluffy quinoa.  Don’t worry if it seems quite oily, the quinoa will soak some of that up after a few minutes.  Toss it all together, pour onto a gorgeous summery platter and sprinkle with the asparagus tips and a few more pine nuts.  Et voila!

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Now this recipe combines some of my most favourite flavours, including things I try and keep in my fridge to jazz up any old ordinary food in an instant: the sundried tomatoes, the pine nuts and the capers… however, when teamed with organic quinoa and asparagus, even in season, this dish is not really frugal at all, well, not by my usual standards.  It works out at £2.25 per portion.  But hey, lets indulge ourselves during the asparagus season, or make it for a special party – then you can share the early summer love with a whole load of other people.

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The 4 year old tucking in.  “What’s that mummy… and what’s that mummy?…. and what’s that green thing?…”
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