As some of you may know, earlier this month I made my inaugural trip of the year to Cairo. Although I had some bureaucratic paperwork to take care of, the main purpose of my trip was a long overdue visit to see my dad. I’d been, and still am, missing him terribly since he moved back to Alexandria permanently post-retirement last November. That said, in the days leading up to my flight there, I was sort of dreading it.
“Why?” you ask? Well firstly, I’d been forewarned by my mother (who accompanied me on the trip) that it would be freezing, and trust me when I say the cold weather and I do not play nice. I still fail to understand how I lived and studied in England for 4 years.
That, coupled with the imminent hassle of the aforementioned paperwork and general anxieties that are the byproduct of a somewhat tumultuous time in my personal life meant that I was less than thrilled to be up in the air again.
So imagine my surprise when at the end of the week, I found myself wanting to stay instead of leave.
In all honesty, it was truly one of the most enjoyable trips to Egypt I’ve had in recent memory, and definitely one of the best weeks I’ve spent with both of my parents (a rarity, for a child of divorce) in an even longer time. Although I still grapple with a lot of identity issues when it comes to Egypt, this time around something about it seemed… different. I found myself looking at this incredible city with new eyes. I didn’t try to blend into the background, dress more simply, or hide my obviously foreign accent when speaking in Arabic. I embraced everything it had to offer; the good (delicious food, precious time spent with loved ones, and a slower pace), and the bad (sub-zero temperatures, excessive cigarette smoke, and a smattering of family drama). Whether it was being taken on a wild goose chase by an ill-informed Uber driver, enjoying the latest and greatest of Egyptian cinema, visiting relatives or simply just spending a quiet afternoon at home, I loved every second of it.
In any case, on to today’s recipe, which is no doubt inspired by “Om el Donia” (the mother of the world). Although I didn’t eat very many salads on this trip, a lively debate with my parents on how my mother’s cooking style firmly laid the groundwork for me to transition into vegetarianism and later veganism, reminded me of this particular one. A staple at almost every lunch meal, I’ve had Salata Baladi more times than I can count. While it literally means “country salad” – it’s an incredibly simple dish of cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions that I’m exists in some form or another in many cultures worldwide.
Traditionally served with a cumin vinaigrette, I decided to keep the existing flavour palette that I know and love, but pump up the volume with quinoa, chickpeas and avocado to turn this dish from a humble salad to a nutrient-dense and filling meal.
- 2 medium cucumbers, finely diced
- 1 medium tomato, finely diced
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- ½ a medium avocado, diced
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup chickpeas
- 2 tbsp mixed seeds of choice
- 1½ tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp sea salt
- Fresh black pepper to taste
- ½ - 1 tbsp cumin powder
- Toss all salad ingredients except the avocado in a large mixing bowl until well combined.
- Add in the seasonings, lemon juice, olive oil, ACV and mix well
- Spoon in the avocado and mix gently so that the cubes don't turn to mush and serve.
Okay I know, how many quinoa salad recipes can one even have in their arsenal? While my answer would be that there’s no such thing as too many, I truly believe this one is a star.
First of all, it’s incredibly simple to make and requires minimal clean-up time on account of mixing everything in one bowl (as opposed to preparing the dressing separately).
Secondly, it is such a delight to eat. The nuttiness of the quinoa, paired with the smoky cumin dressing, fresh crunch from the veggies and seeds and the creaminess of the avocado ticks all the right boxes as far as culinary pleasures go. It’s also quite filling – I had mine for lunch two days in a row alongside some tofu halloumi and was satiated for hours afterward.
Some notes, as always:
- If you wanted to prepare this in advance, say for a dinner party or the like, then I would recommend whipping up the dressing in a separate bowl and storing it in another container. Depending on how far in advance you’re making this I’d also recommend waiting till serving before dicing up the avocado.
- Feel free to double this recipe, I had a limited amount of quinoa leftover so the serving was considerably smaller than I’d usually make.
- I used a blend of pumpkin, sunflower, flaxseeds and buckwheat but use whatever seeds and superfoods you like – chia seeds, goji berries, slivered almonds – there’s no method to this madness!
Until next time, dear readers.