Sunday, 16 November 2014

Protein pesto salad


1 can cannellini beans, 250g red & white quinoa (Merchant Gourmet), 250g beluga lentils (also Merchant Gourmet), 100g fresh basil, 1 clove garlic, 50ml basil oil, parmigiano, 1/2 lemon, 50g pine nuts.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 5 minutes (+ 20 if using dried lentils and quinoa)

I always have a kilner jar of pesto on the go in the fridge so that in a rush for a quick meal I can chuck some pasta or gnocchi or buschetta together in about 5 minutes flat. I was recently asked for a recipe for a healthy, satisfying salad packed with protein and this is one of my favourite picnic staples. Merchant Gourmet make fabulous little pouches of cereals and grains which seriously cut down on prep time, but Quinoa and lentils are quick enough to cook from scratch using the instructions below.

1) If using raw quinoa and lentils: Soak for 5 minutes and rinse thoroughly in a sieve before transferring to a pan. Depending on where you buy it, quinoa naturally has an acrid coating called saponin which you don't want flavouring your food! Cover with lightly salted water and bring to the boil for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently as it soaks up the water and fluffs up, then remove from the heat, add the drained and rinsed cannellini beans and set aside to cool.

2) To make pesto: add the fresh basil leaves to a mortar bowl and grind to a fine pulp. Sautee 1 crushed clove of garlic in the basil oil and add to the mortar bowl along with a pinch of salt and a handful of pine nuts. Grind thoroughly, adding lemon juice, basil oil and parmeggian to taste.

3) Stir 2 tablespoons of the pesto into the quinoa, beluga lentils and beans and either serve or refrigerate for up to 5 days for lunch. If you want to vary this a little from day to day (I liked to make a batch on a Sunday and portion it out for the week) it's nice to sprinkle pomegranate jewels though it, or add some salad leaves, or chopped cherry tomatoes or bell peppers (raw or roasted) and I especially love blitzing up some spinach or kale in the blender and stirring that through)

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