Ever feel like hugging yourself?
Confession time. Do you ever sit down to a meal and feel a tiny bit virtuous when you look down at your plate? Possibly when you’ve chosen an avocado/broccoli/sweet potato-loaded superfood salad over a mayo-heavy club sandwich? Or when you’ve held strong and gone for a skinny cappuccino instead of a rich hot chocolate with extra whipped cream. I have to admit, I do. Don’t get me wrong...I can wolf a rich mac & cheese followed by a double chocolate brownie like the best of them, but I do enjoy eating food that I know is as nutritious as it tastes. And sometimes I do get a little smug thinking about the good it’s doing me. Confession over. Sorry.
Lunch today was one of those times. There has been a bag of kale lurking in the fridge for a few days, and I’m kind of bored of roasting it. Plus it was lunchtime and turning the oven on was not going to happen. I’d run out of salad leaves but had a hankering for something fresh & raw. I was reminded of a kale salad that my mum had told me about – crinkly leaves tossed in an olive-oil dressing and left to sit and soften for a few hours. But lunchtime was here, and a few hours I did not have. A quick raid of the larder brought forth the remnants of a packet of quinoa, the end of a bag of dried cranberries and a little tub of roasted nuts that would provide some all-important crunch. A chunk of salty feta from the fridge and it was all systems go.
The cooked and (slightly) cooled quinoa caused the kale to wilt gently, and it immediately began to absorb the generous glug of honey-mustard vinaigrette that the leaves were doused with. The nuts (a mixture of toasted almonds & walnuts), dried cranberries and crumbled feta were folded into the kale & quinoa mixture, followed by a sprinkling of chopped mint. A generous grind of black pepper and a pinch of flaky sea salt and a Smug Salad I had.
Friends, it was delicious. And best of all, I made a double quantity as I have a sneaky suspicion it'll be even better tomorrow. So I will now spend the next 12 hours looking forward to lunch....and to undoing the damage that ensued when I stumbled across a sneaky bag of Cadbury's mini eggs...! Smug no more.
To make your very own Smug Salad:
1 x 200g bag of Kale (chopped & stalks removed)
½ cup of uncooked quinoa (I used a mixture of normal & red quinoa & bulgur for extra Smug Factor)
Generous handful of dried cranberries
Handful of toasted nuts, roughly chopped (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts would all work here)
50g Feta cheese, crumbled
Small handful of mint, finely chopped
For the dressing:
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Squeeze of honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper
Start by cooking the quinoa. Rinse well and, to the 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa, add 1.5 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 12-15 mins, or until the quinoa is just cooked, but not soggy. Set aside to cool.
Next, cast an eye over your kale and discard any woody stems. I used a bag from Waitrose which was pre-chopped, but a few chunks of stem did remain - so worth spending a minute or two on this bit. Put the kale in a large bowl, and add to it all of the rest of the ingredients, including the slightly cooled quinoa.
In a jam jar or small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Shake or whisk together to emulsify. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss well to combine. Eat, enjoy and give yourself a little hug.
The beauty of this salad is that you really could use any grain you've got - quinoa, bulgur wheat, faro. Feel free to substitute the dried cranberries for cherries, dates, or even chopped dried apricots. Nuts could be replaced with sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Sub feta for goat's cheese or shavings of Parmesan. But for that all important Smug Factor - be sure to keep the kale.