We had some precious friends to stay with us this weekend. It was a gathering of close friends together, and it was such a delight. Like minds, sharing what it is to be human.
Just to be clear: When I write I like to talk about something of interest, something on my mind, something relating to living and not just eating.
Because, you see, life is more than food.
Food is not enough. Food is not my religion.
It is my experience that people grasp at things in their lives; scrambling for fulfilment, happiness, a sense of self-worth, belonging, identity, health. What if I told you that food wouldn't deliver all those things? That food is not your saviour? Would you believe me?
Food can be delicious, nourishing, fortifying, healing, and all those other good things. It can bring people together; indeed, the focal point of our weekend with our friends was the dining table. We sat, we ate, we drank, and we talked.
Food was a topic in our conversation at times, yet so was parenthood, exercise, neighbours, work, money, the future. Food brought us to the table, but the relationships being fostered as we sat and ate - they were the real nourishing part of the meal.
I care passionately about good food and nutrition.
I have a desire to help educate and enable others to take care of themselves and their families with food. But the tendency we have to judge our neighbour by what they do - and (perhaps more fittingly) what they don't eat - is cringe-worthy to say the least. We have a tendency to create rules and regulations around what and when to eat. Consequently we become perfectionists around food; walking on a tightrope, petrified of falling, enslaved to something that was never meant to be our master.
No. Food is not your saviour.
What I'd love is for us to embrace food without guilt. Delight in gathering wholesome ingredients and preparing meals for those around our tables. Put heart and soul into it, and say thanks.
I find it gratifying and meaningful to be closely connected to our food sources (shop local, grow your own). But if you can't source organic-free-range-pretty-much-holy ingredients, you'll be okay. Do your best. Focus on what matters.
No guilt. No shame. No tightrope.
Food is not a religion.
In saying all that, here is a recipe for a wholesome, simple and tasty salad to feed the scraggly crew you may find sitting at your table, expecting to be fed. It is meat-free (a nice change in our household). It's beautiful as a main, but equally lovely taken along to a barbecue as a substantial side dish. This makes a large salad - halve the recipe if you'd like, or freeze the leftovers for another occasion.
Before we go any further - it's kee-nwa, not kwih-noah (we've all been there). Quinoa is an ancient grain (cultivated and used in ancient times) and is naturally wheat- and gluten-free. Quinoa is also high in protein, fibre and other nutrients and minerals. It has a distinctive nutty flavour which is not overpowering. I find it a very versatile pantry staple. It works well in salads or baking; either in whole form, flakes, puffed or as a flour.
Do note that quinoa should be rinsed thoroughly before use to remove bitter flavour and toxins. (Quinoa is naturally coated with saponins - a bitter-tasting toxin, which is mostly removed during processing before reaching supermarket shelves - but you want to make sure to get rid of all those nasties).
Roast Pumpkin, Kale and Quinoa Salad
For the roast vegetables:
1 crown pumpkin, about 1kg, cut into 3cm cubes (seeds removed, skin on)
1/4 of a large cauliflower, cut into florets
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 red onion, finely sliced
3T extra virgin olive oil
1T sumac (optional) *(sumac is my preference but alternatively you could use paprika or cumin)*
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To add to the salad:
1 bunch kale, massaged with a little olive oil and torn
2C cooked quinoa
2/3C mixed seeds (I used pumpkin and sunflower)
For the dressing:
1 large clove garlic
1/4C chopped fresh herbs (eg. mint, parsley, thyme)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/3C extra virgin olive oil
1/2t sea salt
1/2t freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
2. Lay all ingredients for the roast vegetables on a baking tray and mix to coat in the oil.
3. Roast vegetables for 30 minutes, or until well-cooked and pumpkin caramelised.
4. Prepare the dressing. Either whizz all ingredients together in a narrow container with a stick blender; or, mince garlic and chop herbs finely before putting all ingredients into a jar, screwing on the lid on tightly, and shaking vigorously until well combined.
5. Spoon the qooked quinoa onto a large serving platter. Sprinkle with torn kale. Top with the roast vegetables and a generous drizzle of dressing* then gently turn to combine.
6. Scatter with crumbled feta cheese and mixed seeds. Serve with extra dressing.
*Note: do not dress salad at this point unless ready to eat. If preparing in advance, keep dressing separate until time to serve.