Turkey, quinoa and charred lettuce salad recipe

Oh boy, it’s new years. Another fresh start, diet, hobby, business, brand with new resolutions, intention setting and visualisions of your dreams. It’s a funny time of year when the collective self-improvement tide takes force, especially when most of us don’t really believe it will last ’til March, but we do it because we hope that maybe, just maybe it might.⁠

We’re torn in two directions, being told that we should set goals so restricting that they’re the cause of what we deem to be failure in the first place, or encouraged to ignore it all and delve into routines of huge self-care and, often, vast commercial expenditure.

As with a lot of things, I’m on the fence. Do I have resolutions? Yes, but they aren’t the SMART kind. The ‘if I don’t lose 5kg by April I’m a failure’ kind. They’re more the ‘just keep going’ kind. Take more pictures, learn more about writing, eat more seasonably, keep up the German.⁠ All too often there’s a sudden invigorated push for more, for better, but I’m of the opinion that what actually gets us there is consistency, which is hard, especially if you’re not feeling the effects immediately.⁠

Now, I’m aware that this isn’t your usual beginning to my first recipe of 2020, but I didn’t want to write something about healthy eating written to try and capitalise on a seasonal uplift in SEO. Instead I wanted to say that small steps are good and important, so if you are looking to improve your health this year making a green salad like this is a good way to go, but if you’re just looking for something tasty and a bit different it’s also an excellent choice. If you found yourself freezing leftover turkey this Christmas it’s another way to ensure it doesn’t go to waste.

Romaine lettuce halves on a wooden chopping board

Now, onto the food

Let’s talk salad. There are hundreds of types of salad with a billion different dressings. The combinations are pretty much limitless. From your classic caesar salad recipe to a hardy slaw there is something for everyone. The beauty of this particular dish is that it’s warm and filling, with plenty of protein to actually satiate your appetite, but it still has the lightness of a zesty lemon dressing and points of interest in the char on the lettuce leaves, which is the real star of the show.

Some potential questions: Can you substitute chicken? Absolutely. Must you use turkey breast or can you go for thigh? I prefer breast here against the richness of the avocado and dressing, bit if thighs are what you have, go for it. Do you have to char the lettuce? I’ll be bold; yes. It makes a difference and the twist is one of the best bits of the salad.

Romaine lettuce cut in half and charred slightly in a griddle pan

A word on nutrition

Now I won’t try and claim nutritionist credentials, because I don’t have any, but if you are looking for a healthy recipe for whatever reason, whether grappling with those new years resolutions or not, you’ll be able to find a lot of good here:

  • Quinoa: great source of protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissue in your body, not to mention the fibre which is needed for healthy guts.
  • Turkey: a lean meat not only high in protein, but also high in minerals like phosphorus and vitamin B12. It is also a great source of niacin, vitamin B6, and selenium.
  • Avocado: hopefully by now we all know that healthy fats are good for us. Avocados are full of them and so are associated with reduced inflammation as well as being nutritionally dense with huge amounts of vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, and potassium.
  • Pumpkin seeds: fatty acids like oleic acid help to control cholesterol, while manganese is an important co-factor for antioxidants that help to develop resistance against infections and free radicals.
  • Lettuce: vitamin A, K and beta-carotene, known for healthy skin, bones and vision.
  • Lemon dressing: vitamin C and healthy fats, perfect.
Full image of turkey, quinoa and charred lettuce salad with a lemon mustard dressing

Turkey, quinoa and charred lettuce salad recipe

Serves 2

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 400g turkey breast (feel free to use leftovers here and just skip the griddling part)
  • 2 heads of romaine lettuce, sliced in half
  • 200g quinoa
  • 400ml water
  • 1 handful of pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1 avocado

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Begin by cooking the quinoa. This is a warm salad as opposed to hot, so it can sit and steam with a lid on once it’s finished. In a little olive oil saute the grains until they begin to smell fragrant (about 2 mins). This brings out those nutty flavours before you add twice as much water and simmer with the lid on until cooked.
  2. Whilst the quinoa does its thing slice the turkey breast into slices about 1cm thick and season with salt and pepper. Leave to soak up the seasoning while you move onto the next step.
  3. Make the dressing. In a bowl whisk together the mustard, lemon juice and honey. Slowly trickle in the olive oil whilst whisking. The mustard will help to emulsify the oil with the other ingredients making a creamy dressing. Season to taste.
  4. Heat a griddle pan over a medium heat and add a little olive oil before adding the turkey. It’s nice to not move it around too much so you can see the griddle marks, but it’s not entirely necessary – peek when you feel you need to. It will need turning after about 2 mins a side.
  5. Leave the turkey on a plate to rest while you add the lettuce heads to the griddle pan – you may need to do it in batches if your pan isn’t quite big enough. Reminder: don’t forget to check the quinoa.
  6. Cube the avocado while the lettuce is in the pan. It will be done once you can see clear griddle marks.
  7. Assemble the salad, layering the quinoa at the bottom to absorb any juices from the turkey and lettuce, then finishing with the cubed avocado, a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds for some crunch and plenty of dressing.
Close up of turkey, quinoa and charred lettuce salad with a lemon mustard dressing