Vegetarianism was evidently an alien concept for the poor hotel staff in Italy, who seemed at a total loss as to what to give me. Because the menu changed daily and there wasn’t always a vegetarian option, it was a bit hit and miss and it became a nightly guessing game as to what I’d be presented with. Some nights I got delicious pasta with sautéed vegetables or gnocchi in tomato sauce, but other nights it was a few slabs of cheese or a bowl of salad leaves. For breakfast one morning, despite there being plenty of things I could eat at the breakfast buffet, they presented me — “are you the vegetarian?” — with an enormous bowl of tomatoes. By the end of the holiday I had learnt to request specific, easy dishes each day.
It is not the first holiday where food has been problematic — anyone with any kind of dietary requirements can probably identify with that. Throw healthy eating into the mix too — generally I don’t bother or I’d go hungry! — and finding somewhere to eat can be a nightmare. I’m always slightly puzzled by this because it’s actually not at all difficult to create simple, hearty, wholesome vegetarian meals.
This is one example — a salad I’ve thrown together for several picnics or parties this summer. If you want it even more flavoursome, cook the quinoa in vegetable stock and use as much Dijon mustard in the dressing as you can handle. The quinoa could easily be replaced with couscous, buckwheat, or any other grain.
Makes a party-size portion
- 250g uncooked quinoa
- 200g pine nuts, toasted
- 800g tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red onion
- 40g fresh parsley
- 40g fresh coriander
- 40g fresh basil
- 400g feta cheese
- 2 x 400g can black-eyed beans (or any beans)
For the dressing:
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 5-6 heaped tbsps Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-2 tbsps tahini (optional)
- Cook the quinoa according to packet instructions. Once cooked, drain and leave to cool.
- Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, herbs and onion very finely. Chop the feta into bite-size chunks
- Make the dressing by mixing together all the dressing ingredients well.
- In a large bowl, mix together the quinoa, beans, chopped veg, toasted pine nuts and feta.
- Pour over the dressing and mix carefully into the salad.