Over the last couple of months, since the weather has warmed up again, we’ve been in the habit of taking W for an evening stroll through the streets around our house. Sometimes it’s a quick spin around the block, other times we’ll walk for an hour or more as the light settles slowly into the horizon.
On Friday night as we were strolling through the park on top of the hill behind our house, the sky in front of us was blazing pink and it was all so steeped in lovely that we decided to come back the next evening for a picnic.
So we did. We went to the market in the morning and decided on a menu: fresh sourdough French baguette; the BEST goats cheese ever; organic avocadoes; herbed quinoa with almonds and cranberries; green salad of watercress, cucumber, and snowpeas; potato and herb tortilla; white wine and elderflower baked peaches with mascarpone, for dessert.
The park on top of the hill behind our house is the kind of park that makes you want to picnic. It’s small and on a slope, with spectacular views over to the city and across Brisbane to the hills. It has a gazebo and a big tree with spreading boughs on the top, and no matter where you sit the view is terrific.
We ate and drank and talked and chewed leaves and crawled around with the sun setting the cityscape pink in front of us and the cool night coming in, when we turned around to see a storm rolling across the horizon. The sky was bruised dark with clouds one on top of the other, and great bands of forked lightning kept lighting up the sky. Luckily, we made it back home before the rains caught us up, tired but full and sated.
This herbed quinoa salad is light and filling, perfect for a summer night, and it travels well. We’ve eaten it before with grilled salmon for dinner, and then just a big bowl on its own for lunch the next day. If you plan on making it in advance, keep the almonds and the dressing separate until ready to eat.
HERBED QUINOA WITH ALMONDS & CRANBERRIES
Serves 4 – 6
1 cup quinoa
1 handful parsley
1 handful coriander
1 handful mint
1 handful basil
25 green beans
1 small pink onion
I cup almonds
½ cup dried cranberries
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey
3cm fresh ginger
Salt & pepper, to taste
Soak quinoa in a bowl of cold water for two hours, or up to overnight. When ready to cook, drain the quinoa, and put in a pot along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a rolling boil then cover, turn the heat down low, and gently simmer until water is absorbed, approx. 20 minutes. I used a mix of red and white quinoa, but either will work.
In the meantime heat oven to 200°c/400°f. Lay the almonds in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for ten minutes, until almonds are toasted and the whole house smells delightfully nutty.
While the quinoa and almonds are cooking top and tail the green beans, chop into 2cm chunks, and place into a shallow bowl. Pour boiling water to cover, leave for about 5 minutes, then rinse in cold water and leave to drain in a colander.
Cut the pink onion in half, and then finely slice. Roughly chop all of the herbs and the cranberries. Once the almonds have cooled, roughly chop – I grind them loosely in my mortar and pestle.
To prepare the dressing, in a small jar combine the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, and honey. Peel and finely grate the fresh ginger and add it to the jar along with a pinch of salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.
In a big bowl combine the cooked quinoa with the beans, onion, herbs, almonds, and cranberries. Toss through with the dressing, and enjoy.