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Quinoa Salad: Watercress, Walnuts and Blue Cheese

Two bowls of quinoa salad with watercress, walnuts, blue cheese and roasted asparagus.

A light but satisfying quinoa salad with a good mix of textures and flavours. Perfect for picnics or lunch boxes, it also makes an excellent summer lunch or supper. You’ll also find some top tips on how to cook quinoa and what to do with your asparagus offcuts.

Quinoa has been one of our staples for many years now, but we rarely have it in salad form. With the weather warming up (well we have had the odd day), thoughts turn to summer salads. What could be nicer than sitting outside on a summer’s day and eating a delicious salad for lunch or supper?

Summer Salads

I’m sure I’m not the only one that wants to Get Summer Started. So I teamed up with Sainsbury’s to create a light yet filling salad. One which would be suitable for all types of summer eating. As well as making an excellent lunch or supper, this quinoa salad lends itself equally well as a starter to an elegant dinner party, a picnic or a packed lunch.

Working from home, I don’t always manage to take a proper lunch break, but sometimes when the weather is nice, I make an effort to get out of the house and take my lunch to Westbourne Gardens, a little known walled garden in Liskeard. There I can switch off from work for a while and savour the peaceful atmosphere and enjoy my lunch. 

Quinoa, Watercress, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad with Roasted Asparagus

We’re very lucky here in Liskeard to live in the vicinity of three excellent cheese makers. One of these is the award winning Cornish Blue, which is, incidentally, one of my all time favourites. This and quinoa were my starting points. A blue cheese needs something robust to stand up to it, so walnuts and watercress were next on my list.

Asparagus was an after thought and isn’t integral to the salad But it does give seasonal interest as well as a bit of additional style. Asparagus is in full season now and I was somewhat excited to buy my first bunch of Cornish asparagus the other day. 

Instead of roasting the asparagus, as I’ve done for this recipe, you can griddle them. Take a look at my simple griddled asparagus recipe to find out how to do this.

Quinoa Salad Collage

I constructed the salad one sunny day and after taking the photographs, I dutifully tripped down to Westbourne Gardens where I sat in the dappled sunshine with a satisfied sigh and savoured my quinoa salad with watercress, walnuts, Cornish Blue and roasted asparagus. What a treat.

With a bit of forward planning, I made enough quinoa salad for us to have for supper that evening. CT tucked in with gusto and in between mouthfuls expressed his delight at not having his meal interrupted by an impromptu photo shoot.

The mix of textures and flavours make it both flavoursome and interesting. The crunchy toasted walnuts, robust cheese and peppery watercress combine well with the fluffy quinoa. The walnut and lemon dressing is light but flavoursome and is thoroughly absorbed by the quinoa.

How to Cook Quinoa

Quinoa can taste a little soapy if not cooked properly. It contains saponins that need to be washed off. Just rinsing the quinoa under a tap doesn’t do this very well. So I have perfected a much better method and my quinoa never tastes soapy. It’s also results in well cooked and fluffy grains.

Cooked Quinoa

So you start off by placing the quinoa in a small or medium sized saucepan with a tight fitting lid. The size of the pan will depend on how much you’re cooking. Cover the quinoa with water and bring to the boil. Cook it for two minutes. Then pour the contents of the pan into a sieve and rinse the quinoa under the tap.

Place it back in the pan, cover with water to twice the volume of quinoa. Bring back to a boil with the lid on, then simmer for ten minutes. Turn the heat off the pan, but leave the lid on so it continues to cook. Leave for at least another five minutes before using, then fluff up the quinoa with a fork.

Waste Not Asparagus Offcuts

When you snap off the woody bottoms from your asparagus spears, don’t throw them away. Just throw them into some salted boiling water and simmer for thirty minutes or so. You’ll end up with some very useful asparagus stock. I’ve used it in this quinoa salad recipe to cook the quinoa in. You can use it just as effectively to cook any other grains. It’s also great for adding to soups, stews or sauces.

If you’re not going to use it straight away, allow it cool down. Then cover it and it will keep in the fridge for two to three days.

Other Quinoa Salad Recipes You Might Like

Keep in Touch

Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make this quinoa salad, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.

For more delicious and nutritious recipes, follow me on TwitterFacebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

If you’d like more summer eating ideas, I have plenty of salad recipes to choose from.

Watercress Quinoa Salad. PIN IT.

A bowl of quinoa salad with watercress, walnuts, blue cheese and roasted asparagus.

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Quinoa Salad – The Recipe

Quinoa Salad
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Quinoa, Watercress, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad with Roasted Asparagus

A light but satisfying quinoa salad with a good mix of textures and flavours. Perfect for picnics or lunch boxes, it makes an excellent summer lunch or supper.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Lunch, Picnics, Supper
Cuisine: British
Keyword: asparagus, blue cheese, quinoa, salad, summer, walnuts, watercress
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 390kcal
Author: Choclette

Ingredients

  • 125 g quinoa
  • 6-8 asparagus spears
  • sea salt flakes (I used Cornish sea salt)
  • a drizzle of lemon oil, or rapeseed oil
  • 1 shallot - finely chopped
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 3 tbsp walnut oil
  • 75 g organic watercress - finely chopped
  • 40 g walnuts - toasted and roughly chopped
  • 75 g blue cheese - roughly chopped (I used Cornish Blue)

Instructions

  • Snap off the bottoms of the asparagus spears, reserving the actual spears for later. Simmer them in some water seasoned with a pinch of sea salt for about ten minutes or so to create an asparagus stock.
  • Cover the quinoa with water and boil for about 2 minutes. Drain and return to the pan with about twice the amount of asparagus stock to quinoa. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat leaving the pan lid on to continue the cooking process.
  • Finely grate the zest from the lemon and add it to a small bowl with the shallot. Squeeze on the lemon juice and add a pinch of sea salt. Leave to marinade.
  • Drizzle the asparagus with a little lemon oil, sprinkle on a pinch of sea salt flakes and roast at 200℃ (400℉, Gas 6) for ten minutes or until just tender.
  • Put the cooked quinoa in a large bowl and using a fork to keep it fluffy, mix in the shallot and lemon juice along with the walnut oil. Allow to cool a little.
  • Make sure the quinoa is no longer hot, then gently mix in the watercress followed by the walnuts and blue cheese.
  • Divide the mixture up into bowls or lunch boxes and top with a couple of roasted asparagus spears.

Notes

Makes enough for 4 people for a light lunch, or 2-3 people for dinner.
The asparagus is optional and if not wanted, water can be used instead of asparagus stock.
Please note: calories and other nutritional information are per serving. They're approximate and will depend on exact ingredients used.

Nutrition

Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 282mg | Potassium: 437mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 923IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 159mg | Iron: 3mg

Disclosure: Sainsbury’s sent me a shopping voucher so I could buy the ingredients for developing this quinoa salad recipe.

32 Comments

  1. Janice

    4th June 2015 at 8:05 pm

    That looks so fresh and delicious and I love your cloth! Is it a tablecloth or a scarf? I couldn’t quite make it out

    Reply
    • Choclette

      4th June 2015 at 9:42 pm

      Thanks Janice, it was indeed fresh and delicious. The cloth is in fact a tea towel, but a rather nice one of course 🙂

      Reply
  2. Lucy @ BakingQueen74

    4th June 2015 at 9:51 pm

    That looks such a delicious salad, it really makes your mouth water. I’m a big fan of blue cheese and I can imagine it with the watercress. Going on my list for the summer!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th June 2015 at 8:36 am

      Thanks Lucy. If you like blue cheese, I can highly recommend you trying Cornish Blue.

      Reply
  3. Johanna @ Green Gourmet Giraffe

    5th June 2015 at 3:18 am

    What a gorgeous spring salad – it looks so healthy and so satisfying – sounds lovely for a relaxing lunch at home – wish I was sitting down to a lunch like that one but it wont be quite as fresh!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th June 2015 at 8:38 am

      Thanks Johanna. The beauty of this salad is that it will easily last a couple of days in the fridge, so you can have it for lunch several days running.

      Reply
  4. Dom

    5th June 2015 at 7:40 am

    This looks so luscious and so wonderfully fresh and healthy. I eat a lot of pre made quinoa salads for lunch during the week but have never made my own which clearly I need to remedy. X

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th June 2015 at 8:39 am

      Dom you clearly do. Once made up, it will last in the fridge for an additional day or two.

      Reply
  5. Clare Mansell

    5th June 2015 at 8:52 am

    Just the kind of inspiration I need for lunch now that the weather has finally warmed up! Rather frustrating that I’m having to stay off blue cheese (which I LOVE) while I am pregnant though, but there are lots of lovely alternatives out there.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th June 2015 at 9:01 am

      Ah thank you Clare and good point about the blue cheese. But as you say, there are so many gorgeous cheeses easily available now, it shouldn’t be too much of a hardship.

      Reply
  6. Kitty Kaos

    5th June 2015 at 9:29 am

    Oh wow this looks and sounds delicious x

    Miss Kitty Kaos (Adventures Of A Riot Grrrl)

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th June 2015 at 10:20 am

      Thanks Kitty. It was so good, I will be making it again very soon.

      Reply
  7. Angie@Angie's Recipes

    5th June 2015 at 11:36 am

    I would have asked for a 2nd helping! It looks really delicious and healthy as well.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th June 2015 at 11:58 am

      Thanks Angie, it is a very moreish salad, so you need to be strict – or just make twice as much!

      Reply
  8. Bintu @ Recipes From A Pantry

    5th June 2015 at 11:46 am

    The sort of salad I should be making on this very gorgeous day. Plus Cornish blue has gone on my list to try.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th June 2015 at 11:59 am

      Have you got a very gorgeous day up there Bintu? it’s Cornish muzzle down here. But do try Cornish Blue, it’s a fabulous cheese.

      Reply
  9. Heidi Roberts

    5th June 2015 at 4:19 pm

    So glad the weather promises to be proper Summer days so we can try all these delicious salads!

    Reply
  10. Glamorous Glutton

    6th June 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Wonderful combination of flavours, crunchy and peppery. It is perfect for a summer treat. GG

    Reply
    • Choclette

      6th June 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Thank you GG. The flavours worked beautifully together.

      Reply
  11. Kate - gluten free alchemist

    7th June 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Quinoa works beautifully in salad and for us GF people, it is a wonderful alternative to cous cous. Roasted asparagus is always a treat and with walnuts is a favourite combo of mine too! What a delicious salad and we finally have some sun to go with it!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      8th June 2015 at 8:54 am

      Hooray for the sunshine! Quinoa is a wonder Kate and I can see how well it would work as a GF alternative. We’ve been eating it for years, but weirdly now it’s become popular the price has risen hugely, so we don’t eat as much of it as we used to.

      Reply
  12. ManjiriK

    8th June 2015 at 1:57 pm

    a fresh and summery salad sounds delightful and lucky you are to have 3 cheesemakers in your viccinity! I love the tea towel too!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      8th June 2015 at 8:28 pm

      Thank you Manjiri, all of the cheeses are delicious and all quite different too. I’m on a fast day and just the thought of cheese has me wishing it’s tomorrow. The tea towel was from a friend who knows what I like 🙂

      Reply
  13. Jan @GlugofOil

    8th June 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Delicious looking salad – have added it to my Pinterest board ‘Yummy Food’

    Reply
    • Choclette

      8th June 2015 at 8:29 pm

      Thank you Jan – it’s a delicious tasting salad too 🙂

      Reply
  14. Ceri

    15th June 2015 at 11:08 am

    Ooh yes. Love blue cheese, asparagus and quinoa!!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      15th June 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks Ceri, it’s a hard to resist combination.

      Reply
  15. Nayna Kanabar

    19th June 2015 at 8:44 pm

    This salad looks and sounds wonderful. I love the fresh colours so pleasing to the eye.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      20th June 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Thank you Nayna, it tasted very nice too 🙂

      Reply
  16. Fiona from London-Unattached

    16th July 2015 at 9:50 pm

    I can quite happily live on this kind of vegetarian food;) beautiful flavour combinations!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      17th July 2015 at 11:43 am

      Thanks Fiona. If you haven’t tried Cornish Blue, it’s worth giving it a go.

      Reply

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