Leon is probably the best place in London to find a healthy, inexpensive and outrageously scrumptious lunch that can be eaten on the hoof, in a nearby park or at your desk. For three months, whilst I was fashion editing on a magazine based near Leon's original Carnaby Street outlet, I ate the Original Superfood Salad at least three times a week. It's that good.
One of only two dishes to have been on the restaurant's menu since the beginning, it is packed full of nutritious deliciousness. Although it tastes green & summery, it feels especially good in the autumn and winter for warding off the lurgies.
Before the restaurant published its first cookbook, I messed about at home with approximations to it, but I always seemed to overcook the broccoli, forget an ingredient or two and I hadn't got the dressing proportions correct.
So, imagine my glee when chef Allegra McEvedy, one of the founders, put together the official Leon cookbook, sensibly dividing it into a front half dealing with the importance of ingredients, and the back half packed with wonderful, simple Leon & Leon-inspired recipes.
The Original Leon Superfood Salad (Serves two)
2 tbsp quinoa
Salt and pepper
2-3 broccoli spears, cut into bite-sized florets, stalks sliced
120g frozen peas
Quarter cucumber, peeled,cut into slim batons
100g good-quality feta cheese, crumbled
1 handful of alfalfa sprouts
2 tbsp toasted seeds such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower
½ avocado, cut into pieces
1 small handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 small handful of mint, chopped
2 dsp lemon juice
4 dsp extra-virgin olive oil
Put the quinoa into a small pan. Cover with cold water to a couple of centimetres/one inch above the grain and let it gently simmer over a low heat until the water has evaporated — this takes about 15 minutes — then cool to room temperature.
Pour a couple of cms/one inch of hot water into another saucepan, add a pinch of salt. Bring it to the boil, drop in the broccoli & peas, cover and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to take all the heat out and keep the broccoli good and green.
Now build your salad in layers: broccoli, peas, cucumber, feta, alfalfa sprouts, seeds, avocado, quinoa and finally the herbs. Only dress it with the lemon juice, oil and seasoning just before you eat it.
I would add here that I don’t usually weigh out any of the ingredients for this salad, being a) too lazy and b) preferring not to have chunks of excess avocado going brown in the fridge. Although I have made it correctly so I know how it’s supposed to look & taste, for me the beauty of it is that so long as you keep the ingredients the same, the proportions of the individual quantities don’t seem to matter so much. Oh & I just toss it all together.
This is the bowlful of goodness I made for JK’s and my lunch today. I used an entire avocado as I knew I'd never get round to using the other half. Likewise, the cucumber: I had a small American ridge cucumber (about half the size of a European hothouse one), and peeled, de-seeded* and baton-ed it all. As we had missed breakfast, I doubled the quinoa content. Oh and I halved the dressing as we had run out of olive oil.
*the seeds are much bigger and quite bitter compared to UK cucumbers
Click here to buy Leon: Ingredients and Recipes