You can brighten the dullest of days by using mandarins, those orange, citrus jewels, in my flavoursome, colourful salad. If you enjoy a nutrient dense salad, this Quinoa, Mandarin and Spinach Salad will fit the bill nicely. This refreshing, gluten-free and vegan salad is ideal as a packed lunch for work or school.
Place the quinoa into a fine-mesh sieve and rinse vigorously under cold, running water, swishing the quinoa with your fingers. Drain the quinoa well. I sit the sieve on several layers of paper towel; it helps absorb excess moisture.
Pour 2 cups of water into a medium size saucepan, add the drained quinoa, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes, until the seeds are tender*.
When they’re cooked you will notice they have little curly “tails”. Remove the pan from the heat, place a clean tea towel or 3 layers of paper towel over the saucepan, place the lid back on and stand 5 minutes. The tea towel/paper towel will absorb excess moisture.
Place the quinoa into a bowl and leave it to cool.
Cut the mandarin segments in half. If the mandarins contain seeds, simply flick them out with the point of a small, sharp knife.
To toast the flaked almonds I add them to a dry, non-stick frying pan. Over medium heat, I toss or stir them frequently until they are golden. Be careful, they will burn easily.
Add the halved mandarin segments, sliced spring onions/scallions and spinach leaves to the quinoa.
To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and maple syrup in a small bowl. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
Toss the salad with the dressing. Check that the seasoning is to your taste adding more sea salt and freshly ground black pepper if required.
Sprinkle the toasted almonds and pomegranate arils on top.
*It is important to thoroughly rinse the quinoa. Rinsing helps remove the outside coating of the grain, called saponin, which can cause a slightly bitter taste. The saponin is a naturally occurring chemical which is there to deter insects. It is vital that the quinoa is thoroughly drained after rinsing so that all the water is absorbed during cooking.
*As mentioned in the main text, different varieties of quinoa cook at different times. Check the quinoa after about 8 minutes to see if it is cooked to your liking. One indicator is that the cooked grains will have little curly “tails”.
*My mandarins were small; if you are using large ones you may only need 4.
*If mandarins are not in season, you could use oranges or canned mandarin segments.
*My spring onions/scallions were small; if yours are large you may only need 4.
*I remove the stems of the spinach leaves for aesthetic purposes only; this is entirely optional. I use the stems in vegetable soups or add them to stock.
*To remove the arils from the halved pomegranate, I hold it cut-side down in my hand with my fingers splayed, over a bowl. I vigorously and firmly hit the top of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon and the arils fall into the bowl.
*The Australian tablespoon is 20 ml or 4 teaspoons. In many other countries, a tablespoon is 15 ml or 3 teaspoons so you may need to adjust your measurements accordingly.
*Some lemons are much more acidic than others. You will need to check that the dressing is to your taste and adjust the amount of lemon juice accordingly. And if you prefer a sweeter dressing you may want to add more maple syrup.
*I have used maple syrup as a sweetener to keep the recipe suitable for vegans. However, you could substitute with honey if preferred.