Black Quinoa & Halloumi Salad with Wild Honey

A recipe post with a difference, this week: this black quinoa salad was inspired by Wild Honey. Wild Honey are a fantastic independent Oxford business, selling fresh, local, and organic products. Run by Matt and Jessica, it’s all about the local community and economy, with a real focus on great suppliers. They mainly sell food and drink, but they also sell supplements and beauty products. Obviously for me though, it’s all about the food.

I’m going to be doing a few recipe posts inspired by ingredients from Wild Honey. There are two Wild Honey shops, and both are glorious treasure troves of delicious, intriguing products. Yes, you can buy excellent peaches and honey and chocolate and all sorts of the usual things there, but you can also find some lesser known delights on their shelves. It’s those products that I want to focus on. I’m going to develop a few recipes that should hopefully give people a few ideas on what you can do with some of their more unusual ingredients.

Hence, black quinoa. Yes yes, I know, this blog is usually all about the baked goods. But even I sometimes eat healthy stuff to break up the endless parade of cakes.


Black quinoa is like the exciting older cousin of regular white quinoa. It’s darker, stronger in flavour, and has a more interesting crunchy texture. Like regular quinoa, it’s a complete protein, containing fibre, vitamin E, iron, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc. It’s also gluten free, low in fat, and high in protein.

There’s no need to be intimidated by black quinoa if you’re unfamiliar with it. It’s just as simple to cook as regular quinoa: rinse, simmer, drain if needed. Once it’s cooked, there are loads of things you can do with it. If you make up a big batch, it’s great to have throughout the week. It’s very versatile: you can have it in salads, with curries, topped with roasted vegetables…


This black quinoa salad also contains raw broccoli and kale. Wait, wait, don’t leave. I promise you, it’s really tasty. Especially when spiked with a creamy tahini dressing, and finished with shining pomegranate and crispy fried halloumi. You could also switch it up in a dozen different ways. It would work great with cauliflower instead of broccoli, and I think adding a handful of toasted nuts would also be an excellent idea. You could leave off the halloumi if you want, but… I mean, any excuse for halloumi.


I would really encourage you to pop to Wild Honey for black quinoa if you live in the Oxford area, or to another health food shop if not. You could also buy it online. It’s really beautiful in this salad, and more interesting than regular quinoa, with a lovely complex flavour. That said, this would also work perfectly well with white or red quinoa if that’s what you’ve got in the cupboard.



I never, ever measure anything in cups normally. However, it does work easily here, because the quinoa : water ratio is volume based. You don’t need a special measuring cup or anything – just grab any old mug, fill it with quinoa, and that’s your measurement. You then need three times as much water as quinoa.

This salad feeds 4-6 people, depending on whether it’s a main or a side, and how hungry those people are.


1 mug black quinoa
3 mugs water
1 head broccoli
1 handful/ ½ pack kale
generous pinch of sea salt, and a good grinding of pepper
juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

for the tahini dressing

100g tahini
75ml water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of half a lemon

to finish

1 pack halloumi
handful of pomegranate seeds


  1. Put the quinoa in a sieve, and rinse well for a minute or so. Pop it in a saucepan with the water, bring to the boil with a pinch of salt, then simmer gently, stirring now and then, for around 25 minutes. Check it after 20 to see if it’s cooked – you’re looking for the grains to seem like they have popped open, showing a kernel, and to be largely soft but with a bit of texture and bite. If needed, drain it, but it will probably have absorbed all the water.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, break the broccoli into rubble (i.e. the tiniest little florets possible) and pop it in a big bowl. Shred the kale, removing any tough stalks, and add it to the broccoli. Add a big pinch of salt, pepper, the lemon juice, and the olive oil. Mix everything together, and then get your hands in and massage it all for a minute or two, or until the kale shrinks, softens, and darkens.
  3. For the tahini dressing, mix all the ingredients together, taste, and season.
  4. Cut your halloumi into thick slices, then fry it in a non-stick frying pan for a couple of minutes per side in a little oil, until golden.
  5. Mix the cooked, drained quinoa into the broccoli and kale mixture. Pop it all into the dish you want to serve in, drizzle with the tahini dressing, sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, and finish with the halloumi.

Feta and Pomegranate Tabbouleh Salad

James and I take turns in choosing the films we’re going to watch, and we realised last week that he always picks films where everyone dies at the end, and I always pick films that end happily. We are probably educating each other in some way. It’s not that the films I pick are all sweetness and light, it’s just that the important protagonists tend to avoid actually dying. You know, so that they can stay alive to appreciate learning an important moral lesson, watching their children grow, or rocking a new makeover.

Part of the reason that I don’t particularly get along with films where everyone dies is that I think huge numbers of casualties tend to de-value each individual death. There’s no real way of discussing this without spoilers, but we watched Prometheus a couple of weeks ago, and… well, for me, a continuous slew of death after death starts to render the event meaningless. The first one is shocking and sad. But after that? You don’t have time to mourn any of the characters, and instead of regretting their demise you start thinking ‘Seriously? Another one? Why did they go in there? How did they not see that coming?’



My exception to this hard-hearted and blasé attitude is animal death. This probably makes me some sort of monster, but although watching people die in films is bearable – albeit sometimes heart wrenching – watching animals die in films is not. I cannot ever watch I Am Legend again, because I first watched it alone and unaware and was severely traumatised. When James and I watch films together now and it looks like an animal might die, I close my eyes and block my ears and he has to tell me when it’s over. Yes, I know I am pathetic.

(By the way, if anyone out there is as pathetic as me, you will find this to be an excellent resource: https://www.doesthedogdie.com/)

Anyway, yesterday we went to see a film that we chose jointly. No animals die, so it is safe. We were very late to this party, so I am sure you have already seen Inside Out, but if you have somehow missed it then you should really go. I laughed out loud and I cried. It is one of those brilliant, beautiful, animated kids’ films that manages to appeal to children and adults alike by being fantastically funny, touching, and insightful. Some jokes will be lost on little children and appreciated only by adults, and some of the slapstick humour will have kids delighted. It is cleverly pitched to appeal both to children and to the guardians that have to take them to the cinema, so that no one is grumpy and falling asleep. It also cleverly makes a lot of psychological concepts accessible to younger children and gives them a language and a set of characters to comprehend and aid emotional expression.



Anyway, to the recipe, which is completely unrelated as usual.

Notes: I make this salad all the time. Probably too much. It’s quick and easy, and it feeds a crowd. It’s very adaptable, and you can chuck more stuff in or take things out according to preference. It’s basically my bastardised version of tabbouleh.

This recipe will make a big bowl of salad that could be a side dish for 5-6 people.


250g cooked mixed grains (lentils, bulgar wheat, quinoa, freekeh, cous cous, brown rice… whatever you fancy, or a mixture)
1 cucumber
1 200g pack of feta
1 pomegranate (or a pack of pomegranate seeds, for speed)
1 lemon
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of coriander
1 bunch of parsley
good olive oil
salt and pepper


  1. This is just an assembly job and you probably don’t need me to tell you what to do, but just in case… Tip your cold grains into a large bowl. Chop your cucumber in half, de-seed it, then chop it into a small dice. Add the cucumber to the grains and mix. Crumble your block of feta over the grain mixture and stir. Add your pomegranate seeds. Juice your lemon and pop the juice in there too.
  2. Pick the leaves from your handfuls of herbs, and either chop them very finely or (if you’re like me and don’t have any patience) whack them all in the food processor and blitz. I then add olive oil to the mixture in the food processor as it’s running until it becomes a loose paste (probably around 5 tbsp). Add the herbs and oil to your grains. Season well, and stir.
  3. Cover and pop it in the fridge to chill for at least half an hour: this salad is best served cold. It will keep in there for a couple of days, and is great for lunches if you have leftovers.

Pistachio and Pomegranate Cake

It’s not until you don’t have a job that you realise how often people ask you about your job.

When I was at the supermarket buying the pomegranates and pistachios I needed to make this cake (amongst other essentials such as Greek yoghurt, bacon, and gin, since I am not quite decadent or alliterative enough to buy only pomegranates and pistachios and call it a weekly shop) the kind lady at the till asked me, smiling, ‘So, day off work today then?’

‘Yes’, I smiled back, lying.

When I was at the having an eye exam, the sweet young girl checking my prescription asked, conversationally, ‘What do you do then?’

‘I’m an administrator’, I lied, and politely asked her how long she’d been at that optician’s practice.

When I got into a ridiculous accident and ended up in hospital, the friendly A&E consultant (after placating me with stupendous amounts of prescription painkillers) enquired ‘Will you be alright at work?’

‘Oh yes, definitely, I’ll be fine!’ I reassured him brightly.

Yeah, of course I’d be fine, as I had no work to go to.

I haven’t been unemployed before. I went straight from school to university and into work. And, let me be clear, I am not in any way deserving of pity. I had a job, and I wasn’t fired, or made redundant. I quit. I quit because the job was making me absolutely and completely unsustainably miserable. It makes me feel a bit pathetic really, because I don’t think I had much right to be upset about it. I would cry before I left for work and I would cry when I came home, and sometimes I’d lock myself in the stationery cupboard in the office and cry there. But it’s not like I was sweeping chimneys, or crawling through sewer pipes, or cleaning deep fat fryers, so what right did I have to be so unhappy? Then again, I always think that’s a bit of a pointless way to think: would you think you didn’t have the right to be happy if other people had reasons to be happier than you? But still, it bothered me.

Anyway. Everyone around me – friends and family – saw me struggling and told me it wasn’t worth it, and that I should just leave. I knew I would be returning to studying full-time come September, and so I thought I would spend the last two months of summer left to me before that living off my savings, doing odd bits of freelance work, writing, organising, helping friends, and cooking lots.

The sense of relief I felt when I walked out of that job was enormous. But it’s been challenging, in its own way, too. It’s difficult to feel purposeless, and to have a lack of structure. It’s scary not to have any consistent money coming in. It’s a complicated situation to explain to people. It makes me feel lazy and entitled. I thrive when incredibly busy, and now it seems like I have deep vast rivers of time to float in, drifting gently on my back downstream in the glow of the hazy July sunshine.


I am completely aware that these challenges are nothing compared to those faced by people who genuinely cannot get a job, who are stuck in unemployment and wish desperately not to be, people for whom the subject money is a constant, gnawing knot of panic that sits in a hard lump beneath every thought. I am in the incredibly privileged position of having something else diverting to go to come September and enough money to live on until then. I chose the situation I am in now, while I am painfully aware that others do not have that choice.

And that, I suppose, is why I end up lying to people who ask me about my work. People don’t expect me to be unemployed, and in telling them that I am I would be giving them an incorrect impression: they might believe that I am struggling, and that I am hopelessly trying to find work, rather than taking a voluntary break and putting myself firmly into this camp. My situation is complicated to explain, and it’s easier to just pretend I am still at my old job in passing situations, rather than to bog people down in unnecessary detail that they don’t care about: ‘Well… actually, I’m not working at the moment.I quit my job. Because I’m going back to study, see. In September. So I’m a student! But not really. So I’m unemployed, really. I mean, not exactly, I do a bit of freelance work. But by choice! So it’s okay! Sort of…’

If I’m being completely honest, I worry that all of these people with legitimate jobs will look down on me when they hear I’m unemployed, perhaps even more so when they hear I chose to be this way.

So, on that cheerful note, onto the cake!


Source: Edd Kimber’s blog – the original recipe can be found hereI have tweaked it, but the glorious pomegranate and pistachio combination is his. Well, I thought of it, and then Googled it and realised someone else had gotten there first. This happens to me a lot.

Notes: This actually makes a pretty huge cake, but it keeps well and retains moisture for a couple of days. My taste-testers included the gorgeous young sons of a friend of mine. One of them apparently doesn’t like cake (I know, right?), and yet liked this. I am assured there can be no higher praise.


225g butter at room temperature
200g light brown soft sugar
zest of three lemons
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
70g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
200g shelled pistachios, plus spare to decorate
1 pomegranate, seeded


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and grease a 23cm cake tin, preferably springform. Line the base of the tin.
  2. Put your pistachios and 1 tbsp of flour in a food processor and pulse until finely ground and sandy, but make sure to stop before they become a paste.
  3. Cream your butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy, then add your lemon zest. Gradually beat in the eggs. Sieve your flour, baking powder and salt until well combined, and then stir your ground pistachios into this dry mixture. Fold the flour mixture into the wet batter gently, until just combined.
  4. Place in your tin and bake for around 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden, firm to touch, and passes the skewer test. Once the cake is out of the oven, let it cool, and then remove it from the tin. Cover with your pomegranate seeds and the remaining pistachios.