I’m not actually sure whether George Columbaris invented the Cypriot Grain Salad that his Hellenic Republic restaurants in Melbourne became renowned for, but Google seems pretty set on it, so I’m gonna roll with it being homegrown.
It’s not often that a salad can rival a mountain of slow-cooked lamb shoulder as the centerpiece on a table of die-hard carnivores (I was one back then), but the Cypriot Salad gave it a good crack. The punchy flavours and textures just made your tongue dance, meat-lover or not. Many other modern Greek restaurants would attempt to replicate Hellenic’s signature side dish over the years, but no one seemed to be able to nail it like Georgie boy did.
As delightful as this salad was, it was an IBS sufferer’s nightmare – the raw red onion, freekeh, lentils, and dried fruit was a literal recipe for next-day gastrointestinal hell. When I first developed my plethora of tummy troubles back in the day, this dish was one of the things I missed most about dining out. I’d sit across the table from my family at Hellenic Republic in Brunswick, demanding that they kept the salad as far away from me as possible because it made having to stick to greek salad and plain rice even more depressing.
Cue the orchestra of tiny violins for the IBS brat over here.
If you’re familiar with my blog, you’ll know that most of my creations are inspired by high FODMAP dishes that I missed dearly when I had to restrict my intake of IBS-triggering foods for several years. My spin on George Columbaris’ signature salad is no different, and has been carefully formulated to be suitable for people with all sorts of digestive woes, as well as the gastrointestinally normal obvs. 2019 edit: even though I don’t have to watch my intake of FODMAPs anywhere near as much these days, I still make this recipe over its freekeh-and-red-onion-packed counterpart because I genuinely prefer it. And since Columbaris closed the doors on Hellenic Republic amidst his employee underpayment scandal, I’ve become ever grateful that I’ve been able to to keep the legacy of the flavour and texture bomb that was his Cypriot Salad alive. RIP Melbourne’s best taramasalata and saganaki with peppered figs, though.
Please note that this recipe has been formulated to be FODMAP friendly, and as such, I’ve had to be quite frugal with the quantities of nuts and dried fruit used. If you’re not digestively challenged, I highly recommend doubling the quantities of slivered almonds, pine nuts, currants, and cranberries from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup each. This is how I make it these days and it adds significantly more flavour and nutty crunchiness.Print
- 1½ cups (270g) tri-coloured quinoa, rinsed thoroughly (white quinoa is also fine)
- 2 ½ cups stock of choice
- Leaves from 1 bunch coriander, chopped
- Leaves from ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 5 spring onions (green part only), chopped
- ¼ cup (30g) slivered almonds
- ½ cup (60g) pepitas
- ¼ cup (30g) pine nuts
- ¼ cup (35g) currants
- ¼ cup (35g) dried cranberries
- 1 cup thick full-fat Greek yoghurt
- Seeds of 1 pomegranate
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp pure maple syrup or honey
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Preheat the oven to 180*C and line a tray with baking paper.
- Add quinoa and stock to a pot and stir. Bring to the boil over medium/high heat. Reduce to low, cover, and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed, roughly 8-10 mins. The quinoa is ready as soon as the germ (the little white ring around the seed) becomes exposed. It should be al dente – not crunchy, nor mushy. If there is slightly too much liquid, you will need to drain it. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool for 30 mins.
- Place the almonds, pine nuts and pepitas on the lined baking tray and toast in the preheated oven on the middle rack for 3-5 minutes or until golden. Take care not to burn. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- Toast the cumin by placing it in a dry pan over a low flame for a few minutes, stirring it regularly to prevent sticking and burning. It should become super fragrant.
- Combine the yoghurt, toasted cumin and maple syrup/honey in a small bowl. Stir well.
- When ready to serve, combine the cooled quinoa, coriander, parsley, spring onion, almonds, pine nuts, pepitas, currants, cranberries, lemon juice, and olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the salad to a serving dish and top with the cumin yoghurt and pomegranate seeds. I like to mix half of the yoghurt dressing through the salad in step 4, then add more on top, but it does make for a less photogenic salad. Completely up to you! Serve on its own or as a side. I don’t eat lamb anymore, but I have to say it goes superbly with it.
- If you don’t have IBS, double the almonds, pine nuts, currants, and cranberries. These are the quantities I use now and it makes a huge difference to the flavour and texture.
- I use tri-coloured quinoa because I love the festive colour (and because I’m difficult), but white quinoa is also fine
- You can use salted water instead of stock if you like. I prefer to use stock for flavour.
- For a dairy-free version, try topping the salad with tahini and add sliced avocado instead of the Greek yoghurt