With the impending onset of summer, salads are once again set to grace the table on a regular basis. What’s great about a salad is you can throw it together in an instant, and that’s extremely important when the mere thought of cooking in hot weather makes you cringe. I love basing a salad around a grain – to my mind it gives it a more hearty vibe. I usually use varieties of couscous (Caponata with Pearl Couscous and Almonds or Lamb Fillet with Roast Vegetable Couscous) or rice but am more than happy to experiment with alternatives.
Which brings me freekeh. The other day I was standing in the queue at the local pharmacy waiting to pay for my purchases. Weirdly, they had a large stand of ‘health’ foods: nuts, seeds and a range of grains next to the registers forcing you to look and ponder as you waited for your turn. It certainly beats the chocolate bar stand at the supermarket. On a whim I grabbed a packet of freekeh. My ignorance of this supposedly ancient grain led me to research said ingredient. What I found out is that it’s wheat that is harvested when it is young and green. Not only that, it’s considered a superfood, being low in fat and high in protein and fibre. Indeed, a super food to rival quinoa!
I cooked the grain using an absorption method in accordance with the instructions on the packet. When it was cooked it had a really dirty flavour, which wasn’t very pleasant. So… I rinsed it. Now this may have washed all the goodness down the sink, but it tasted so much better. Cleaner. Edible. Rinsing and boiling it in a pot of water might be a better option.
Despite this minor setback, the end result was delicious. The grain is slightly chewy and has a nutty, slightly earthy flavour, which goes well with roasted capsicum and sun dried tomatoes. I cooked some lamb covered in Ras el hanout to go with it, but leave it out and it’s a great vegetarian feast. Enjoy!
- 250 g freekeh, rinsed
- 60 g feta, crumbled
- 1 small red onion, cut into wedges
- 1 small lebanese cucumber, cut into thin strips
- 1 red capsicum
- a handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- a handful of baby spinach leaves
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped mint leaves
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven 200 degrees celsius.
- Cook the freekeh grains in a large pot of salted boiling water for approximately 40 minutes or until they are tender. Drain completely and set aside.
- Cut the capsicum in half and place cut side down, along with the onion wedges, on a baking tray. Drizzle over a little olive oil, and roast in the oven for 35 minutes, or until the capsicums are well softened. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- When cool enough to handle, peel the skin off the capsicum and slice into thin strips.
- In a large salad bowl, put the freekeh, spinach, capsicum, onion, cucumber, quartered tomatoes, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled feta and mint. Mix together.
- To make the dressing: in a small bowl or jar with a lid, add the garlic, pinch of salt, the juice of ½ a lemon, three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and pepper. Mix or shake well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
- Add dressing to the salad and gently stir through. I like to add a little dressing at a time so that I don't add too much. Nothing quite as bad as a soggy salad.