As autumn has already settled here in Australia, its nice to make good use of the beautiful pumpkins you see around the markets these days.
Roasting pumpkin brings out so much of its sweet flavour that has built up during the summer months. This makes me think of all the suns energy captured inside a single pumpkin and how lucky we are to be able to enjoy this summer energy during autumn, allowing us to fuel up for the coming winter months.
Talking about summer sunshine, I like roasting the pumpkin with turmeric. Fresh or powdered, turmeric gives it an even brighter yellow-orange colour as well as giving an anti-inflammatory boost to this salad.
Adding pumpkin and turmeric to your life will help reduce chronic inflammation which is known to be the root cause of many illnesses. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant found in both pumpkin and carrots, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for good skin and eye health but more importantly will help build up a strong immune system ready for the colder months to come.
Last but not least, having quinoa as the base of this salad, provides you with a good dose of protein as well as keeping you full for a long period of time, avoiding the quick sugar spike after a light lunch.
Ingredients (serves 2)
½ cup quinoa dry (red, black or white)
1 bay leaf
¼ medium sized pumpkin
½ sliced beetroot
1 sliced carrot
A handful of greens: rocket or baby spinach
¼ cup almond slices
Salt to taste
Tahini creamy dressing
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup water
Juice ½ lemon
1 small garlic clove (optional)
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 170ºC. Wash the pumpkin well, leave skin on if edible and soft (like Kabocha or Japanese pumpkin), and scoop out the seeds. Cut into small similar sized cubes and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. With your hands, toss it with some olive oil, turmeric and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast until tender for about 30-40 minutes or until cube edges begin to brown.
While the pumpkin is in the oven, rinse the quinoa in a sieve over the sink a few times. This is an important step as quinoa has a natural bitter coating of saponins which are difficult to digest, but will dissolve when quinoa is rinsed. Place in a pot with 1 cup water, add bay leaf and a generous pinch of salt. Once it starts to boil, cover the pot and lower the heat to minimum, letting it simmer for approx 20 mins or until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa has grown little “tails” which means its cooked. Once cooked, leave cover on and let it sit for at least 20 mins. Half a cup of quinoa will yield approx. 1.5 cups of cooked quinoa.
Cut carrots and beetroot into thin slices. I like using a mandolin for extra thin slices but you can also do it with a knife. If you want to make sun shaped carrots, cut 4 or 5 v-shaped notches along the length of the carrot. Remove the notches, eat them or use them in the salad and then slice the carrot.
Toast the almonds slices by placing them on a pan on medium heat (no oil here!), they will be ready when they start to turn a light brown colour and give out a lovely toasty smell. Make sure you move them around a bit by shaking the pan as they can burn very quickly. Turn heat off and set aside.
To make the dressing, add all ingredients and process with a blender until smooth and creamy, adjust with more water if you want a runnier consistency. If you don’t have a blender you can just whisk all ingredients into a bowl and then add the optional crushed garlic. You will feel like the tahini and water will never bind, but be patient and keep going until you create a wonderful creamy texture!
Once the quinoa and pumpkin have cooled down, mix in the sliced carrot and beetroot. Add greens at the end to keep their crispness, the tahini dressing and lastly sprinkle almonds on top. If you are not eating the salad straight away, its best to keep the dressing separate in a little jar in the fridge which will keep for 3-4 days.
This is one of my favourite hearty salads to eat for lunch these days and also makes a great weekend picnic or take away lunch. Hope you enjoy it!
Marina x xx