This meal is a great showcase for National Vegetarian Week, showing that veggie eating doesn’t need to be a pastiche of your traditional meaty dinner with a “star of the show”. In fact, I had some trouble naming this recipe. None of the ingredients is really ‘with’ the other ones – they all take centre stage, playing off each other. There is no Diana Ross to the Supremes here, no Martha Reeves for the Vandellas. It’s more a Shirelles situation, if you’re still following along with me.
This is based on a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe, but I found the original a little flat. I countered the earthy courgette and nutty grain with sharper feta and citrus-y sumac, both of which boosted the Middle-Eastern feel to the dish.
Health-wise, you’ve got micronutrients and protein in your quinoa, calcium in your feta and fibre and vitamins in your courgettes. I don’t believe in hugely changing your diet for carb-loading before a race (why would I start eating huge amounts of white flour now, even if it is disguised as pasta?), so I’ll be having this towards the end of the week before we do the Edinburgh Half Marathon on Sunday. Even if the race profile wasn’t all downhill, which thankfully it is, I’m sure I’d fly through.
- 800g courgettes
- Olive oil
- 3 onions, halved and sliced into half moons
- ½ tsp thyme or lemon thyme, leaves only
- 2 garlic cloves, mushed
- 200g quinoa
- Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Half a lemon
- 50g pine nuts
- To serve
- 100g feta
- 1 tsp sumac
- Salt & pepper
- Cut the courgettes into thin slices on the diagonal. Heat the oil in a very large frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the onions, courgettes, thyme and season. Cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions and courgettes will be breaking down and going golden. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another few minutes.
- At the same time, cook your quinoa. Measure out 200g in a measuring jug, then rinse under cold running water. Put in a saucepan with a tightly fitting lid, and add twice the volume of cold water. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer and cook until the water is just absorbed (about 10-12 minutes). The grains should still be al dente – not just a big mush. If you feel you’ve got your volumes wrong, you can always drain it in a sieve, no great loss.
- In a little frying pan, toast your pine nuts. They burn in the blink of an eye, so keep a careful watch on them.
- Add your quinoa and nuts to your courgette pan, and squeeze your half a lemon over the whole lot and scatter with the parsley. Serve with feta crumbled on top, and a good pinch of crimson sumac dusted over.