Quinoa with caramelized leeks, toasted pumpkin seeds and feta with a lemon balsamic dressing

January 30, 2012

Quinoa Salad

My love affair with quinoa continues and it’s not just about the amino acids (it has them all – unheard of unless you’re talking animal/fish protein). No, the attraction lies in the texture (crunchy yet tender ), the nutty flavour, the versatility (it does everything cous cous can plus it’s not wheat) and of course the simplicity of the cooking (20 minutes, not much stirring or attention and it always works out). If you haven’t had it I urge you to give it a go. It can be hard to track down but a good deli or your local healthfood shop should have it or you can have it delivered with your veggies from Home Organics.

My latest favourite quinoa dish is a salad with slow-cooked leeks, toasted pumpkin seeds and feta with a lemon balsamic dressing which you can serve warm or at room temperature . It seems to go with everything – falafel, fish, meat especially lamb, tortilla, roasted veg, hummus, guacamole and of course any salad but it’s particularly good with a beetroot one I’ve been making recently with blood orange and toasted hazelnuts, ….. basically it has slotted right into easy midweek eating. I make double quantities of the recipe below, we have half for dinner then the rest is on standby for the next day’s lunch, dinner and general munchies.

Quinoa salad with caramelized leeks, toasted pumpkin seeds and feta cheese with a lemon balsamic dressing

You’ll need:

1 cup quinoa

1 bunch leeks (about 3 or 4 decent size ones) trimmed of roots and tougher dark green bits

100gr feta cheese

A handful pumpkin seeds

For the dressing:

The juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

Maldon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

I cook quinoa the same way I do cous cous – lightly toast it on a dry pan then add water and allow it to cook. The toasting adds flavour and colour. It takes longer to cook than cous cous – about 20 minutes or so but unlike cous cous you don’t really have to watch it so it kind of takes care of itself allowing you to get on with the rest of the meal.

Cooked quinoa

For this dish I like the leeks super- tender and almost at melting point and you’ll need about 20 minutes for this. Wash them carefully as they can be quite gritty – I usually cut down the centre a few inches then swish them around in cold water before I chop them in discs.

Chopped Leeks

So, first of all start toasting the quinoa on a dry pan over a medium heat. Within about 2 minutes the grains will start to change colour and take on a golden hue. When this happens, turn down the heat slightly and add 3 cups of hot but not boiling water and a generous pinch of salt. Stir everything then leave things gently bubbling while you get on with the rest.

Heat a generous glug olive oil on another pan and add the leeks. Toss so the leeks are all coated in oil adding a generous pinch of salt as you go.  Heatwise you want things hot enough for the leeks to cook and soften but not so hot that they start to darken and burn unless you are constantly stirring them.

With the leeks and quinoa cooking, take (yet another pan) and toast the pumpkin seeds til golden then set aside. Make the dressing by whisking the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar with some crushed Maldon together.

Quinoa salad dressing

When the quinoa is ready (tender with the little “tails” sprouted) take it off the heat and stir in the leeks. Allow things to cool a bit then add the pumpkin seeds and dressing. Taste then add more lemon juice/vinegar and/or salt along with a very generous grinding of coarsely ground black pepper. Crumble in the feta, mix once more and serve.


It’s Seville orange season and we’ll be getting a delivery in next week. If you’d like to make marmalede or cake (that tang works so well with almonds and/or dark chocolate) be sure and give us a shout and we’ll you name on a few kilos. They’re €3.50 per kilo.


4 Responses to “Quinoa with caramelized leeks, toasted pumpkin seeds and feta with a lemon balsamic dressing”

  1. Eli Says:

    Love the look of this. Quinoa is sooooo good for you and tasty too! Thanks, Eli

  2. Lone Says:

    Can’t wait to try out this recipe. It looks and sounds delicious.
    Thank you. Lone

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