Prahran market is any health foodie’s bliss, and its location — being just off the hustle and bustle of fashion heaven Chapel Street –makes it even more blissful for those who love fashion and food. I was in my element. I won’t lie, this market isn’t cheap. But, then again, it’s only expensive relative to supermarket produce that’s mass-produced and often genetically modified, and is laden with preservatives, herbicides, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Like many local markets, most of the produce at Prahran Market is organic, seasonal and farmed locally. Basically, you get what you pay for. Not only is organic produce free of all the nasty stuff, but it’s also far richer in the good stuff – organic fruit and veg provides far more vitamins, minerals and nutritional antioxidants because it’s grown in nutrient-rich soil and is harvested with care. It’s also for this reason that organic food looks more vibrant and tastes better. I believe wholeheartedly that your health is the best investment you can make, monetarily and otherwise. People often complain that organic and ‘health’ foods are unjustifiably expensive, but I personally look at it this way: it’s more worthwhile to spend money on nourishing the body I’m going to have until I die, rather than a dress I’m going to wear once or twice. That’s not to say I don’t put money into both. One is just more justifiable than the other…
I managed to fill the boot of my car with a whole heap of gorgeous organic goodies such purple carrots, wild baby carrots, sweet potato, a Woodfrog Bakery baguette, Loving Earth coconut sugar, pumpkin seed butter and quinoa, just to name a few. I even bought a bunch of these exquisite wild tulips which, as the proud cashier announced, were not grown hydroponically (in a water solution), but in real soil. How incredibly naive of me for assuming that all flowers are grown in the grounds of pretty meadows all these years…
When I got home, my mum asked what on earth I was going to do with it all, as she usually does. I decided to whip up a big quinoa dish to get me through the next week’s lunches. None of it made it past dinner – the entire thing got demolished by my family before I could get my tuppaware containers out of the cupboard.
Fragrant Roasted Veggie + Quinoa Salad
Dietary info: wheat & gluten free, fructose friendly, low FODMAP, soy free. Contains nuts (almonds) & lactose (omit feta for dairy free).
- 1 medium sweet potato, washed & peeled
- 1/2 kent/jap pumpkin, washed & peeled
- 1 large purple carrot (optional)
- 2 cups white quinoa, rinsed thoroughly* (I often cheat and use two packets of Celebrate Health Lemon & Thyme Quinoa)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 large handfuls baby spinach
- 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh coriander
- 1/4 cup roasted slivered almonds
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp garam masala (Indian spice mix – available from supermarkets & spice markets)
- Pinch sweet paprika
- Himalayan sea salt, to taste
- 1 1/2 tbs EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- 1/2 tbs garlic-infused EVOO
- 1/2 cup Danish or Persian Feta, crumbled
- Preheat oven to 200*C.
- Combine the ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika and garam masala.
- Chop pumpkin into 2cm chunks and sweet potato and carrot (if using) into 1cm chunks. The pumpkin is softer and therefore cooks twice as fast as sweet potato & carrot, but I’ve got better things to do with my time than fiddle with varied cooking times, so I just cut the pumpkin twice as large as the sweet potato & carrot.
- Throw pumpkin, sweet potato & carrot in a large bowl with the garlic olive oil and 1/2 tbs of the EVOO (the rest will be used for the dressing). Use your hands to ensure that the veggies are evenly coated with the oil.
- Arrange veggies on a baking/roasting dish and sprinkle with half of the prepared spice mix. Also sprinkle with a little Himalayan salt.
- Bake veggies for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and turn to expose the less-cooked sides. Sprinkle with the remaining spice mix and some more paprika and salt if you wish. Return to the oven until they’re golden and cooked through – another 15-20 mins should do it. If they’re still a little under done, cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Cooking times will vary from oven to oven, and also depending on the size of the veggies.
- While the veggies are roasting, place the quinoa and stock in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, then turn right down and cover with a lid. Leave for 15 minutes to allow the grains to absorb the liquid. Once ready, use a fork to fluff it up and separate the grains. If you’re using Celebrate Health Lemon & Thyme Quinoa or another packaged recipe base, prepare the quinoa according to packet instructions, using stock instead if it calls for water. The quinoa is ready when its germ is exposed (a white little ring around the grain will appear). It should be soft but still have some resistance when chewed – sort of like the ‘al dente’ quinoa version of pasta! It should not be cluggy or porridge-like, but if it is, don’t bother starting from scratch – it’ll still taste good!
- In a large salad bowl, combine the quinoa, lemon juice (to taste), remaining EVOO, baby spinach, chives and coriander. At this stage, I threw in more of the spices to taste to make the quinoa itself more fragrant and flavourful. Top the quinoa with the roasted veggies, toasted almonds, feta and extra coriander. Finish with a little drizzle of EVOO and a squeeze of lemon juice. If I have some on hand at the time, I also love to top the salad with some of my Mum’s homegrown and home-pickled beetroot chunks. Since it’s full of sugar and not exactly clean, I only use a few tablespoons of it, but the sweetness really ties everything together and makes the flavours pop. Besides, I’ve never been able to pass up a beetroot and feta combo, anyway.
*Always rinse plain uncooked quinoa thoroughly prior to cooking, or you might end up with a very unpleasantly bitter result!