Quinoa salad with crisp-skinned salmon and saffron onions

Murdoch Recipe Article Lead - narrow
Murdoch Recipe Article Lead - narrow 

Quinoa originates from South America. The Incas used to hold this crop as sacred and referred to it as ‘the mother of all grains’, although it's not a true cereal but a relative of spinach and silverbeet. It makes an excellent substitute for couscous and burghul and, like them, is a good carrier of flavours.


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 French shallots, finely chopped

375 ml (13 fl oz/1½ cups) good-quality chicken stock

200 g (7 oz/1 cup) white quinoa, rinsed

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 small lemon, peeled, flesh coarsely chopped

85 g (3 oz/¼ cup) feta-stuffed green olives, sliced

6 fresh dates, pitted and chopped

¼ cup flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped oregano

40 g (1½ oz/¼ cup) pine nuts, toasted

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 x 175 g (6 oz) salmon fillets, skin on

sea salt, for sprinkling

Saffron onions

1¼ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, halved and sliced

1⅛ teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 2 tablespoons boiling water

1 teaspoon brown sugar


1. To make the saffron onions, heat the oil in a small saucepan and cook the onions, covered, over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until very soft but not coloured, adding a little water if the onions are sticking to the pan. Add the saffron mixture and sugar and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until the water has evaporated, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow to cool.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and cook the shallots over low heat for about 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Stir in the quinoa, cover and cook over low heat for 10–15 minutes, or until the stock is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Remove from the heat, cover and stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.

3. Stir in the celery, lemon flesh, olives, dates, herbs, pine nuts and 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil and season to taste.

4. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6) .

5. Sprinkle the salmon skin with sea salt. Heat the remaining extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and cook the salmon, skin side down, over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until skin is crisp and browned.

6. Transfer the salmon to an oven tray, skin side up, and roast for 7 minutes; it should be cooked to medium, but still a little glassy in the centre.

7. Serve the quinoa salad with the salmon and some saffron onions.