For the seasonally devout like me, spring is all about putting colour on the plate. After the heartiness of winter dining, this is the season to bring vibrant, eye-popping hues to the table that capture the fervour of springtime and take your taste buds in a new direction.
Nothing signifies spring to me more than the arrival of peas on the market. Bringing a verdant green to the table, my pea and mint salad with quinoa, feta and almonds is a seasonal highlight. The sweet and crisp medley of sugar snaps, snow peas and garden peas is given dear life by a daring double-dose of mint, both in the dressing and as leaves in the salad. Whilst subtle, this layering of mint is fresh and surprising. [fold] You want both the sugar snaps and snow peas to be super crunchy, so keep an eye on them while blanching and pull them out as soon as they reach that intense shade of green. If you can’t get hold of freshly podded peas, don’t be afraid to opt for frozen peas – they’ll taste just as good! The protein-laden quinoa provides a perfect backdrop to the pea and mint show, keeping the salad light yet substantial.
Served on its own as a lunch, or as a side, this is one of those nourishing salads that is simple to prepare yet big on wow factor, perfect for lazy weekend entertaining.
Pea and mint salad with quinoa, feta and almonds
250g snow peas, trimmed
250g sugar snap peas, trimmed
200g garden peas, freshly podded or frozen
300g quinoa, rinsed
1 tsp powdered vegetable stock
50g almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
100g Greek feta, crumbled
large handful of torn mint leaves
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp caster sugar
10–15 large mint leaves
To make the dressing, blend all the ingredients in a food processor and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste for balance, adjusting the vinegar, oil and seasoning as required. For stronger mint flavour, add a few more leaves.
To cook the peas, bring a large pot of water to boil – add a large pinch each of salt, sugar and a bit of oil (these keep the peas green and enhance flavour). Add the peas and sugar snap peas and blanch for about two minutes or until just tender. Remove and refresh under cold water. Next add the snow peas and blanch for just a minute or so. Remove and refresh.
Add about two cups water and a teaspoon of vegetable stock to a pot. Add quinoa to the water and bring to the boil. Turn down heat to low and continue to simmer until the quinoa is tender and transparent and the liquid has been absorbed.
To serve, combine the peas, quinoa and mint leaves on a serving plate. Spoon over the dressing, top with crumbled feta and almonds. Eat at room temperature.