Not another quinoa salad

Urgh, how boring, quinoa this quinoa that. Everyone’s got a quinoa salad recipe and no one knows how to pronounce it. Wasn’t there once an article in the Guardian about how we shouldn’t even be eating quinoa because it’s bad for the Bolivians? Yes, there was, and it’s here. In short, the article explains that as the international demand for quinoa grew, the price of quinoa boomed. This led to more money for the farmers but it also meant that poorer Bolivians were being priced out of their staple grain and having to eat less nutritious products like rice, pasta and junk food instead. Clearly this is bad news for Bolivians who are used to eating quinoa and no longer can because it’s tripled in price over the last five years.

The Bolivian government have taken measures to stave off malnourishment, for example, the government incorporate quinoa into a food package which is delivered monthly to pregnant and nursing women. In 2011 when the quinoa crisis was coming to the fore, Evo Morales pledged £3.1 for malnourishment prevention measures which would “encourage production and food self-sufficiency in the country for the long-term”. Meanwhile, Bolivia is producing a lot of other grains, vegetables and beans which are relatively inexpensive but underused. In addition, malnourishment in Bolivia was prevalent long before we started seeing quinoa in Waitrose, which is why intiatives like the Community Health Agent Programme, which help Bolivians learnt to utilise their local products, are so important. Meanwhile, the Bolivian economy is growing and quinoa is a vital source of protein for a lot of vegans worldwide. In fact, the quinoa craze has grown so strong that it is already being produced in Colorado, the UK and Australia. This worldwide expansion of quinoa crops could push the price of quinoa back down, which would be great for the Bolivians who were out-priced, but then again probably not so good for the Bolivian farmers. Basically, quinoa is an ethical minefield.

Anyway, the reason why this is not another quinoa salad, apart from the side of social guilt, is firstly because I liked the name and secondly, because it has a real depth of flavour. The roasted fennel and lemon create a sweet, sticky, aniseed base which is enhanced by the bitterness of the rocket and quinoa, and the dirtiness of the spring onion. The tahini dressing creates a lovely, creamy film around the salad but if you can’t find/don’t have/don’t love it then I would do a simple extra virgin olive oil and lemon dressing with a few small spoonful of goat’s curd or a mild goat’s cheese on top. I hope you like it as much as I did and as ever if you have any comments regarding the recipe or indeed the Bolivian economy do let me know!

Ingredients (serves 1 if you’re hungry, 1.5 if you’re not)
25 g red quinoa
25 g pearl quinoa
100ml water
1/2 fennel bulb
1/2 lemon
2 spring onions
1 handful rocket
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
1 big squeeze of lemon
2 pinches of salt



  • Turn your oven on to 180C fan
  • While the oven is warming up, put your quinoa and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. When boiling turn down the hob and put the lid on. The quinoa will need to boil for about 13 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, slice off the fennel root and shoots, then slice the fennel lengthways and in half horizontally. Then, finely slice the lemon lengthways and then in half horizontally. Put the fennel and lemon on a baking sheet and drizzle in olive oil. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, halve the spring onions vertically and then halve them horiztonally, add to the lemon and fennel after the 10 minutes and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  • When the quinoa is cooked, transfer it to a seive and run it under cold water for a minute.
  • Put the tahini, extra virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a mixing jar/ cup and combine.
  • When the lemon, fennel and spring onion are ready transfer them to a heat proof bowl. Rest for a minute then combine with the quinoa and rocket. Put about two thirds of the dressing in and taste, add more and adjust the seasoning with a pinch a salt if necessary.


  1. Pingback: Not another quinoa salad | Stop! Food!

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