I met Misterrios at a vegetarian cafe named Die Rebellion des Zimtsterns. It is a cute cafe, with a fun green wall and big communal table. I balked at the fact that you could get a warm lunch on a plate for €5! Mr. Rios looked at me like I was from Mars. Well I live in Mitte! And London before that so – yes, I think it is cheap!
It was back when my computer was out of action and he had heroically volunteered to fix it. So he ordered the pumpkin dish of the day and hunkered down behind my Mac to gently prod it back to life.
Now for a little aside…
Even if I don’t know you very well, I will probably eat food from your plate. Over the years, I have learned that this drives most people bananas! I can’t help it though! Chalk it down to my Middle Eastern upbringing, we share food! I have since learned that the correct way to approach sticking your fork in someone else’s lunch is to first volunteer they try yours. The usual response is “No, but would you like to try some of mine?”
Count to 3…
The Hokkiado pumpkin variety is sweet but can be a bit dry on its own. There was a small side salad with an over vinegary creamy dressing. The idea was nice in principle but I thought I could do a lot better than that!
I’ve been mentally patting myself on the back ever since I came up with this combination. It is a wonderful lunch but it is also sophisticated enough to serve as a starter at a dinner party. It is entirely vegetarian and doesn’t apologise for that fact by being doused in cream or cheese. It’s also probably pretty low-fat / low-calorie. No two mouthfuls are the same and as a result you don’t suffer from palette fatigue.
Oh and before I forget, I am by no means a kitchen gadget pusher but one thing you really should have is a salad spinner. Pre-washed and chopped salad is just creepy and smells faintly of plastic. And it’s entirely contrary to what you are presumably trying to do, eat healthily, by consuming some sad greens that have been sweating in a bag and have a fridge life of up to 5 days!
Roast Pumpkin filled with Quinoa, with Rocket Pickled Beetroot salad and Tahini drizzle
Ingredients (to serve 4 for lunch)
1 Hokkaido pumpkin
100g of quinoa (cooked in plenty of salted boiling water according to the packet instructions – DON’T OVERCOOK!)
2 tablespoons of currants (you could substitute raisins)
2 tablespoons of pine nuts, (toasted in a dry pan)
1 tablespoon of chopped coriander
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
3 tablespoons of tahini
lemon to taste
olive oil to taste
1 packet of rocket (at least 100g) (I think the peppery nature of rocket is ideal for this dish)
About 10 slices of pickled beetroot from a jar
1. You are going to be eating the pumpkin peel, don’t crinkle your nose! It’s really tasty in this variety! Scrub the outside of the pumpkin with a sponge to make sure there is no soil on the skin.
2. Quarter the pumpkin, remove the seeds. Massage the inside and outside with olive oil. Salt and pepper generously. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 180ºC for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is done.
3. Bring some salted water to the boil. Add quinoa and simmer for 10 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked. Drain.
4. Meanwhile wash the rocket and dry in a salad spinner.
5. Chop the parsley and coriander. Toss the drained quinoa with the chopped herbs, currants, pine nuts and a little olive oil to lubricate it all.
6. Put the tahini into a small bowl. Add about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. It will seize up. Slowly add in the water and stir until you have a sauce the consistency of double cream.
7. Put one quarter of pumpkin on a plate, fill with quinoa.
8. Now pay attention, I am about to teach you a trick. Drizzle in a little olive oil into a bowl, let’s say about 1 tablespoon, squeeze in about 1/2 a teaspoon of lemon juice. Drop in the dried rocket, sprinkle over some salt and then with your hands, toss that rocket to make sure it is nice and shiny with olive oil and speckled with salt. Give it a taste. Grab a handful of rocket, crunch up into a ball like you are crunching up a wad of paper. Arrange on the plate so it’s just nudging the pumpkin. You will have a beautifully dressed but not dripping salad!
9. Lay some beetroot on top and then drizzle everything with tahini lemon sauce