Quinoa salad with spiced lemon butter and roasted pumpkin

This might be an unpopular, or merely uncommon opinion, but I think the lead up to Spring is probably my favourite time of the year. It’s still cold enough that I can (potentially) get away with wearing grey marl unscathed, the days are slowly getting longer, and I’m slowly remembering what it’s like not having to photograph my dinner at 3pm.

Melbourne’s weather (while still retaining it’s wholly unpredictable nature) has been peppered with a few sunny days lately – the sort of days that give you hope that there in fact light at the end of the wintery tunnel. The sort of days that remind you of eating salads without cursing yourself for not making something warm, like a curry.

I created this quinoa salad with the idea of making it a trans-seasonal affair, something that can be adapted to the weather of the particular day you make it. While it’s hearty and wintery thanks to the quinoa and roasted pumpkin, it also has zingier, fresh elements, like the mint and lemony butter, that translate nicely into warmer weather scenarios.

The quinoa base and pumpkin can be cooked in advance and cooled, or the entire dish can be served warm. Inca berries are particularly tart and vibrant, almost like a sour lolly. I highly recommend you find some if you’re able to as they’re a standout in the spiced butter (a lot of health and bulk food stores in Australia sell them) but if you really can’t/don’t want to find them, sultanas or dates would make a nice, albeit less tart, replacement. You could consider adding an extra squeeze of lemon juice if you go to sultana or date route.

quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and lemon butter from www.georgeats.com
Quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and a preserved lemon butter

FOR THE SPICED LEMON BUTTER:

100g butter
2 teaspoons mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon preserved lemon brine
¼ preserved lemon
75g inca berries (or sultanas/dates)

FOR THE QUINOA SALAD:

1 cup quinoa
500g pumpkin (I used Kent but any should be fine)
Juice of ½ a lemon
Olive oil spray and sea salt

TO SERVE:

1 bunch of mint
100g pomegranate seeds
150g labne

METHOD

  1.  Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Cut your pumpkin into even cubes, and place on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Pour the juice of ½ a lemon over the top, and follow with some olive oil spray and sea salt. You could grate over the zest of a lemon if you fancy. Set the timer for 20 minutes.
  2. Fill a large pot with water, and bring it to the boil. Add 1 cup of quinoa, and cook for 7-8 minutes, until the quinoa has unfurled and is soft to the touch. Remove from the heat and drain.
  3. While these elements are cooking, melt your butter in a small pot, and add all the ingredients for the spiced butter. Once they are fully combined and melted, turn the heat to a low medium, and continue to cook for about 5-10 minutes. The inca berries should start to puff up a little, without the butter burning.
  4. Once all your elements are cooked, combine the quinoa, pumpkin, mint and labne in a large bowl, reserving a small portion of each for aesthetically pleasing assembly. You can also add the spiced inca berry butter here, but I quite like pouring it over the top at the end. Ensure you’ve heated it just prior to using it so it doesn’t solidify on impact.
  5. Top with the reserved ingredients and serve, warm or cool.
Quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and preserved lemon butter from www.georgeats.com
Quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and preserved lemon butter

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