Summer in Brisbane is not for the lighthearted. By the time W wakes up from her morning nap and we get ready to go out, it’s so hot. We walk slowly down to the pool, the parasol our traveling circle of shade. After lazing in the water and playing in the grass, we walk slowly back home, one of us drinking icy-cold coconut water and the other craning her head back to see the crows in the trees.
The best time of the day is early in the morning, when the sun is still low and hasn’t built up to its midday strength, when everything feels fresh and clean, and not yet wilted beneath the sun. We like to get to the market early on the weekends, take our time with the shopping. By the time we’re finished up and heading home, the sun is strong and the market is busy.
For the past couple of years we’ve been buying our sweet potato from the bearded guy who has the small stand next to the French cheese stall. He sells a great range of potatoes – kipflers, dutch creams, purple congos – as well as ginger, garlic, and the occasional finger lime. His produce comes in big hessian sacks and is always fantastic; since eating his potatoes I can’t go near the tasteless waxy variety you get from the supermarket. But his sweet potatoes are the best. Bright orange, creamy, and SO GOOD. We’ve taken to having baked sweet potato as a side with almost every meal, and it is hands-down W’s favourite food.
For the first few weeks of January though, the potato guy was away. There was just a sad space next to the cheese stall reminding us of the lack of sweet potato in our lives. This weekend though he was back!
This quinoa salad is fairly simple, letting the flavor of the sweet potato shine. The kale pesto gives it those extra nutrients and a wonderful garlicky kick, and the green beans and pumpkin seeds bring the crunch. It’s a perfect salad to enjoy on a hot Sunday afternoon, with the sun low in the sky.
Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Kale Pesto
Serves 4 – 6
1 cup red quinoa
3 – 4 medium-sized sweet potatoes
50 green beans
¾ cup pumpkin seeds
Salt & pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon quarters, to serve
1 bunch (approx. 3 cups) kale
1 cup walnuts
2 garlic cloves
Rind of 1 small lemon
200ml extra-virgin olive oil
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.
In the meantime heat oven to 200°c/400°f. Cut sweet potato into small chunks, toss through with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, lay flat on a baking tray, and pop into the oven for 20 minutes, until sweet potato is cooked through.
While the quinoa and sweet potato are cooking top and tail the green beans 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.
Heat a pan over a medium heat, and throw in the pumpkin seeds, tossing continually until they start to brown and pop. Remove from heat immediately and leave to cool.
Combine quinoa, green beans, sweet potato, and pumpkin seeds in a big bowl, stirring through with a splash of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
To make the kale pesto trim the hard stems off your kale, tear into pieces, rinse, and throw into your food processor. Add the peeled garlic cloves, grated lemon rind, walnuts, and 100ml of the olive oil. Blend until smooth, drizzling in the remaining 100ml olive oil as you go. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times, or add more olive oil if you feel it is too dry.
To serve the salad, stir through a few generous tablespoons of the pesto and the juice of half a lemon. Alternatively, you can serve it in individual bowls topped with a spoon of pesto and a lemon quarter on the side.
Notes: you’ll get a lot more kale pesto than you need for this recipe, but it will keep in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks – just pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top surface. It is equally delicious (and nutritious) stirred through lunchtime salads, as a pasta sauce with a few shavings of parmesan, or atop a poached egg on a slice of toast.