Salads are a major part of any plant based eater's diet. Up until a few years ago, the traditional Irish salad consisted of lettuce, tomato, coleslaw, potato salad, cheese, cold meat and boiled eggs. Pretty much as much dairy and meat as there were vegetables. Even now, you sometimes still see dishes described as salads when they are pretty much meat and cheese dishes with a little bit of lettuce on the side. However, more and more eateries are putting major effort into their salad options on menus and coming up with really great combinations of healthy vegetables and seeds and grains. For vegetarians and those trying to eat more vegetables this is really good news. I eat salads at home all the time so it is so great to be able to get good salad options when eating out as well as at home.
Even though I make salads pretty much every day I haven't included many on my website so far. So with summer upon us I thought I would change all that and start adding salad inspired blog posts more regularly. To be honest, I don't really consider these recipes, more salad ideas and salad inspiration. They can be played around with and adjusted to suit your own taste buds or to suit whatever ingredients you have handy.
Yesterday, I made a butternut squash and quinoa salad for lunch and it was so yummy. For me a filling salad should have protein, healthy fats and lots of lovely vegetables. For this salad, the healthy fats come from the avocado and sunflower seeds and the protein comes from the quinoa and actually from the sunflower seeds also. Serves two good sized portions or if you are using this as a side dish, it would probably do 4-6 people.
1 butternut squash
Large handful of baby spinach leaves
Large handful of watercress
2 spring onions, chopped
1 cup of quinoa
2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon of balsamic
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Pink salt and pepper to season
Pre heat the oven to about 180 degrees celsius / gas mark 4. Chop the butternut squash into about four pieces removing the seeded centre. Place the squash on a baking tray and place in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Rinse the quinoa well and then place in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil and then reduce and simmer for about 10 minutes until the water has boiled off and the quinoa is fluffy. Keep an eye on it so that the quinoa doesn't burn. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl to cool.
Toast the sunflowers in a small pan over a medium heat for about four minutes, tossing regularly.
Prepare the beetroot by roughly chopping it. Add the balsamic to a pan over a low heat. Add the beetroot to the pan and allow to cook in the balsamic for four or five minutes stirring regularly.
Prepare the dressing by mixing the olive oil, lemon juice and pepper and salt in a little jug.
When the butternut squash is roasted (it should be soft when pierced with a fork) remove from the oven and allow to cool a little. Once it has cooled a little, remove the skin and chop the squash into bite size pieces.
Assemble the salad by putting the spinach, watercress, spring onion, butternut squash, sunflower seeds and quinoa in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss lightly.
Serve by spooning the salad into two bowls. Chop some avocado and toss the pomegranate over the salad just before serving. Add the beetroot to a separate dish and serve it as a side to the salad.