I know what you’re thinking, more strawberries! I just can’t resist them, there is always a punnet of them in my fridge when they are at their peak. The thing is, I have no problem using them in breakfasts or sweet desserts but struggled for a long time with using them in savoury food.
This Grilled Chicken and Strawberry Wrap from the Pioneer Woman was the first savoury strawberry dish that really appealed. Then my sister told me of a steak she had with a strawberry salad on the side, and I knew I had to open my mind. The result was this Strawberry Goats’ Cheese and Pancetta Salad. The sweet strawberries are balanced with the salty goats’ cheese and bacon. A delicious balsamic dressing brings the whole thing alive and is good enough to drink from the jar!
I am not a big quinoa fan, I’ve never been able to cook it properly and always think it tastes soggy. I first had it toasted when I ordered a version of this Melon Tomato and Feta Salad. So I’ve been researching and found a way to toast it without having to pre cook it.
My next post will not contain strawberries, I promise.
Useful tips & links:
- Quinoa seeds are covered in a naturally occurring phytochemical called saponin. The grain needs to be soaked to remove this saponin or else it will have a bitter taste. You can buy pre-soaked quinoa which will eliminate the need to rinse and make this even faster.
- Toasting the quinoa make it really nutty and crunchy. I only use two tablespoons in this recipe but I toast a large amount which will keep for ages in the fridge in an airtight container. Feel free to use more to bulk up the salad.
- You can alternatively use nuts such as pecans, almonds or walnuts or seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower to add crunch to the salad.
- Other cheese can be used instead of goats’ cheese such as feta, grilled halloumi, blue cheese or brie. I like the tang of goats’ cheese with the strawberries.
- Make it vegetarian: leave off the meat and add some avocado. Make sure the cheese is suitable. Or make it vegan by leaving off the cheese altogether and use apple syrup in place of the honey.
- Use any form of bacon you like, such as regular bacon or some prosciutto. You can also use chicken or steak with this but really the strawberries and cheese are the stars here.
- Some balsamic vinaigrettes have a lot of honey in them. I don’t like mine too sweet and bear in mind the strawberries are very sweet. Taste your dressing as you make it as some vinegars are sweeter than others and adjust as you like.
- For more inspiration for strawberry salads, have a look at my Burrata Strawberry and Watermelon Salad or Libby’s Summer Strawberry Salad.
Strawberry Goats’ Cheese and Pancetta Salad
Serves 2, more as a side
- 100g of quinoa
- 250g of strawberries
- 70-80g of goats’ cheese
- 4-5 slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
- 80g of spinach or mixed salad leaves
For the dressing:
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1 small clove of garlic
- 2 teaspoons of honey or apple syrup
- 1½ teaspoons of Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
- To toast the quinoa, put a wide non-stick pan on a medium-high heat. Pour the quinoa into a bowl of water and allow it to soak for at least 10 minutes. Stir the quinoa until you see the residue come off the grains and then pour through a fine mesh sieve. Rinse, drain and pour the wet quinoa into the pre-heated pan. Allow it to toast, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. It is ready when the the grains are dry, turning a golden brown, starting to pop and have a nutty aroma. Set aside.
- While the quinoa is toasting, grill the pancetta until crispy and allow it to cool.
- To make the dressing, lightly crush the garlic and add it and all of the rest of the ingredients to a jar. Shake well until the dressing is emulsified and let it to stand to allow the flavours develop. Taste and season as needed.
- Divide the salad leaves between two plates. Clean, hull and cut up the strawberries and arrange them with the goats’ cheese on the salad. Crumble the cooled pancetta and sprinkle it on top.
- When ready to serve, remove the garlic clove from the dressing and shake it well again. Pour some over the salad and sprinkle about a tablespoon of the toasted quinoa on top.