Instant Harissa Mayonnaise (with Roasted Pumpkin + Lemony Quinoa Pilaf ... and Pecans)

My all-time favourite recipes, and the ones that make it onto this website, are those with that magic combination of delicious + nutritious + easy + thrifty. They have to be resilient to laziness and bouts of erratic substitution. I have to want to make them again. And again. And again.

One of the staples around our house is roasted veg. There are few veggies that (in my opinion) don't benefit by a good douse in sea salt and olive oil and some quality time in a very hot oven. And by benefit, I mean "become extra tasty." Heat caramelises the sugars in vegetables and crisps up exposed flesh - enriching and diversifying flavour and texture. 

If you doubt me, try roasting cauliflower. OMG.
Roasted vegetables are a really easy dinner option - you just pop them in the oven and forget about them for 30 or 40 or (oops) 50 minutes. In the meantime, you put on some rice or quinoa to simmer, toss together a green salad, and have a glass of wine. Your husband builds a fire in the Weber outside, not because you need a fire for cooking, but because you need a fire to chill out your brain. Let the world and slide off. Hang out together. And then you can sit, knees up on the chair, watching eucalyptus twigs burn burn burn until those vegetables are perfectly charred and crispy and sweet in the oven inside. You'll remember them, eventually.

And then you pile your plates high with quinoa and veg, slather it all in harissa mayonnaise, and return to the fireside to eat.
Amanda xx

PS. If you know and love Peppermint magazine (like I do) - grab a copy of the Spring 2013 edition and read my article on nanoparticle use in sunscreens on page 44. Also, wish for a moment that you had pink hair. If you don't yet know Peppermint? Check it out. It's on digital, too.

Roasted Pumpkin with Quinoa + Pecan Pilaf 
and Harissa Mayonnaise 
serves 4

I know, I told you this was uncomplicated and now there are multiple segments to the recipe? Um, sorry. The thing is, I really loved this particular combination - so much that I felt compelled to share it in its entirety. BUT you don't have to make the quinoa pilaf, and you can use other roasted veggies if you prefer. (Potatoes are awesome.) The harissa is so easy to make, and so wonderful paired with mayonnaise, that you'll find yourself roasting stuff just as an excuse to eat it.

The roast
Cut ~1-1.5 kg* of pumpkin, squash and/or sweet potatoes into 2" (5cm) chunks, rub in olive oil and spread across a baking tray in a single layer. Sprinkle with sea salt and roast in a hot oven (180-200C/ 360-400F) until soft (with crispy edges). If they're burning, remove them from the oven - otherwise, just turn off the heat and open the oven door to keep them all warm and yum.

*I believe you can never have too much roasted veg - leftovers are beautiful in salads or sandwiches, on pizzas, or tossed through pasta. So do up as much as you want.

The quinoa pilaf (~4 cups)
While the vegetables are roasting, boil 1 cup of rinsed quinoa in 2 cups water until soft. Add 1/2 an organic lemon to the cooking water for extra tastiness. This should give you about 4 cups cooked quinoa.

To make the pilaf, saute 1 minced onion in 1-2 Tbs butter over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add a heaping Tbs minced parsley or parsley stems, and cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat and stir the cooked quinoa (which should be around 4 cups) into the onion/parsley, mixing well to distribute all that buttery goodness. Add 2 handfuls crushed pecans.

The harissa mayonnaise (~1/2 cup harissa)
To make the harissa, crush the following together in a mortar or food processor: 1 clove garlic + a big pinch sea salt + 1 Tbs tomato paste (or passata) + 1 tsp lemon juice + 1 Tbs ancho or chipotle chile powder + 1 Tbs smoked paprika + 1/4 tsp cayenne (or chile flakes) + 1/4 tsp ground cumin + 1/4 cup and 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Mix harissa with your favourite mayonnaise in 1:1 proportions in whatever amounts are needed - but make more than you think because this stuff is seriously good.

To assemble
Quinoa then veggies then harissa mayonnaise then sea salt + black pepper, to taste.
Oh yeah.

NOTE: The quickie harissa recipe came from here - though I removed the caraway seeds (because I never have them around home).