Herb-flecked and fragrant: Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Macerated Onions

I have a confession to make: As I write this I’m almost one week into a low-carbohydrate diet (but still on my smugly non-puritanical terms: If I fancy a bag of crisps or a slice of cake, I just won’t eat any bread, rice, potatoes or pasta that day. It’s all about balance and moderation – you didn’t think I’d become Calgary Avansino [she’ll sue me one day] did you??), so I’m looking for speedy suppers that are big on flavour, but don’t rely on the crutches of pasta or bread as the base. Even when in virtuous mode, I do not go in for rigid blandness or mimsy portions.

This colourful and herb-flecked quinoa and chickpea salad was born out of a store cupboard and fridge rummage as I found myself falling into the trap of buying new things for supper every day. Now I know what you’re thinking, it sounds hessian-weave and militant Wellness vegan time, but I assure you, if I didn’t like the taste of this, I wouldn’t make it, let alone publish the recipe. (I can’t stop channelling Queen Nigella can I? I’m too far gone.)

Indeed I have looked towards St Nigella for part of this – one of her frequent recipe components; the zingy macerated onions. It might sound inconvenient to steep finely-sliced red onions in vinegar (or lime juice which works just as well) for half an hour, but the acid takes out that acrid burn you get with raw onion, making them tangy and sweet, so you can eat this in the company of others without them recoiling in horror. Even with this step, this is still gratifyingly easy cooking and quick to make. Plus cold, it makes a great packed lunch for work.

This is packed with colour and zing; the vinegar or lime juice that the onions steep in, forms the dressing (no oil so I’m keeping company with the food fascism brigade here), there’s 2 chillies thrown in; some mouth-puckeringly, alligator-skin-hued capers, and the herbs, roughly chopped provide pungency – I want them more like a salad leaf instead of a garnish; whilst the grated carrot and chopped cucumber provide sweet, cool, familiarity.

You’ll notice I’ve flitted Stateside and back with the measurements, but I think it’s much easier to cook grains like quinoa (which like rice cooked by the absorption method, it’s 1 part grain to 2 parts liquid) if you go by volume. I generally don’t weigh ingredients for salads, rather going by eye, so feel free to add more or less of each of the components to your taste.

Serves 3-4 depending on appetite

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Macerated Onions


Half red onion, finely sliced into half moons

About 60ml red wine vinegar or fresh lime juice (60ml = about 2-3 limes)

1 cup quinoa

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

400g can chickpeas, drained

Generous handful rocket leaves

A handful each of coriander, mint (de-stemmed), and parsley, roughly chopped or even left as whole leaves if you want

1-2 chillies, finely chopped

Approx 1 tbsp capers

1 medium carrot, grated

1/3 cucumber, cut into triangles


  1. In a bowl, place the sliced red onion and douse with vinegar or lime juice. Cover with cling film and leave to steep for 30 minutes.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the stock to the boil and add the quinoa grains. Bring back to the boil before lowering the heat and clamping on a lid. Cook for about 15 minutes until swollen and all the stock absorbed.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chilli, roughly chopped herbs, rocket, cucumber pieces and grated carrot. Toss to mix.
  4. When the quinoa is cooked through, upend into the green garden of vegetables and stir with two forks to prevent the quinoa from clumping. The heat may wilt the rocket a little – if you want to, you can cook and cool the quinoa in advance.
  5. When the onions have had their steeping time, empty the pale puce strands, along with their steeping liquid into the salad and stir again to mix.
  6. Finally add the chickpeas and capers and give one final quick toss to ensure everything’s combined, decant onto a plate  (I also topped mine with a few of those bacon flavoured crispy bits) or into tubs for meal prep and dive in.

    NOTE: If you’re spreading this out for meal prep, store in a bowl covered with cling in the refrigerator and eat within 2 days, or in individual plastic airtight tubs.



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