Warm Chicken and Quinoa Salad

It’s official: this is the most middle class post on this blog (and that’s impressive, because I’m fairly sure that in the dictionary definition of Middle Class, ‘possessing a food blog’ is one of the identifying criteria.)

You may or may not have heard of quinoa (say it keen-wah, appaz), which seems to be quite a recent Health Food Sensation. It’s hailed as a superfood which may or may not be true, but it’s high in protein and amino acids and other good things for you but has zero gluten, which means you can happily munch away at it without feeling guilty. (If you have no idea what on earth I’m on about, imagine a cross between rice and couscous that is super good for you and which you would have to eat metric tonnes of in order for it to make you fat.)

This salad is dead easy (no, really) with a total prep time of about 10-15 minutes which makes it perfect if you are on a writing roll and need a quick fix so you don’t completely lose your train of thought. If you are feeling entirely too virtuous while consuming this delicious, high-protein, gluten-free meal, contemplate the nature of quinoa and allow some proper middle class guilt  to seep into your superfood salad along with that delicious, tart dressing.

Warm Chicken and Quinoa Salad


You will need:
[serves one hungry person]

80g quinoa (we used white; red or mixed would also work)
1 Chicken breast (in strips)
Onion (chopped)
1 bell pepper in the colour of your choice (cubed)
Vegetable oil
White Balsamic vinegar
1/2 Lemon
1 Garlic clove
Olive oil (for frying)

For the dressing
[You can make this while your chicken and quinoa are cooking for extra efficiency]

  1. I usually throw this together in a small coffee cup. You want about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and just over a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar, call it one and a half. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. (Bottled is *cheating* and also gross).
  2. Add four grinds of a pepper mill and two of a salt mill for a nice seasoning. Top with half a teaspoon of white sugar.
  3. At this point, I usually cheat shamelessly and give a couple shakes of an Herbs de Provence spice mix into the pot – but if you do not have such a thing, you can use less than a pinch each of basil, thyme, maybe a fennel seed or two, rosemary and sage. (But really, I’m going to suggest you pop to the supermarket and pick up an Herbes de Provence mix, because in so many cases it is the exact mix of spices you want, it is easy, and it is delicious.)
  4. Crush your clove of garlic into the cup and then, using a small fork, whisk up your dressing. Taste it – it should be tart, garlicy, and not too oily. You can never go wrong with a splash or two more white balsamic, in my honest opinion.

For the salad

  1. Cut your chicken breast into strips and fry it up with as little olive oil as you feel you can get away with. When the chicken is brown but not yet cooked through, toss half of a chopped up onion in along with it.
  2. Rinse your quinoa a few times. (Word to the wise: don’t approach this task in the way you might approach rice rinsing – ie, in a bowl. Your quinoa will float up and out and over the side and you will watch it circling the drain with a vaguely despondent sense of despair. Rather, put the quinoa in a strainer/sieve and then run the tap over it a few times. Maybe this is obvious to the average cook but it took me a shockingly long time to work that out, and I’m not even hungover.)
  3. 80g of quinoa is about half a cup; you should cook it in twice its volume of water (just like rice). Bring it to a boil at medium heat – at which point I whacked a lid on the pot, brought it down to low, and let it simmer away for a while. After the little white things have popped out of the seeds, you can take the lid off and cook it about 5 more minutes or until all the water is gone.
  4. Take it off the heat, whack it into a bowl. Put your chicken, onions, and bell pepper on top. Give it a bit of a stir.
  5. Finally – drizzle your dressing over the warm salad. Because the quinoa is still warm, it will soak up the dressing, muting the tartness of the balsamic and lemon ever so slightly and giving the entire salad a lovely consistency that is not too gloopy and not too dry. I like this when it’s warm, but you could also fridge it and eat it cold.

One two three four – SCORE
[Numerical ratings are out of four, where four is best/healthiest/hardest.]
Taste: 3
Difficulty: 1 (this is literally so easy, all you have to do is fry and boil and stir. If you find those things challenging, then I don’t even know what to say to you.)
Healthiness: According to my calorie tracker, this salad weighs in at around 471 calories, making it just about appropriate for a dinner. If you want to cut down on those calories, do without the vegetable oil in the salad dressing.
Cost: Quinoa is not the cheapest of foodstuffs, but everything else you will probably have laying around, except maybe white balsamic vinegar. Definitely an affordable meal.
Overall: 3  I’m only just starting to cook with quinoa, so improvements could probably be made, but this was delicious and filling and I feel very virtuous indeed.

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