freekeh salad with hot-smoked salmon, pomegranate and feta

saladThere’s been a lot of talk about ancient grains recently. A LOT of talk. And by talk, I’m referring to virtual obsession… on the internet, in restaurant menus, in burgers, breads, cakes and breakfast cereals.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. In fact, I’d happily state the opposite. Ancient grains are ridiculously good for you, they’re less refined and generally more nutritious than modern, over-processed grain products. They’re also frequently grown in an organic and sustainable manner, which is much better for the soil and the environment in general.

Yep, it’s all good.

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But rather than spending the rest of this post harping on about ancient grains (I’ll let those more qualified do that) I’m going to narrow down to one particular type of grain that I’ve recently fallen in love with: freekeh.

Technically, freekeh (“free-kah”) is a term given to any grain that is harvested, sun-dried, roasted and threshed whilst still green. In Australia, most available freekeh is currently made from durum wheat, however companies such as Greenwheat Freekeh in South Australia are currently working to produce green triticale and barley for commercial sale.

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Due to its early harvest, green freekeh contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than mature wheat and other grains. It is also higher in fibre whilst having a lower glycaemic index (GI), which means it’s great for management of diabetes.

Freekeh has been a staple part of Middle Eastern and North African cuisine for centuries, most commonly used in side dishes (like pilafs), stews and soups. It’s a wonderful, natural alternative to pasta or rice, with a slightly nutty flavour and crunchy texture.

My favourite way to consume freekeh is in a fresh, textural salad full of green herbs, nuts and seeds, great olive oil and sweet pops of fresh or dried berries. I’ve tried many over the past two years and I’ve loved most of them, the stand-outs being those that incorporate soft labne or goats curd, pomegranate arils and toasted nuts.

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The recipe that I’ve included below was a rather impromptu creation; the result of extreme hunger and some after-work fridge foraging (hence why some of the photographs were taken after dark; darn that yellowish tinge). Luckily, I had a beautiful Tasmanian hot-smoked salmon fillet on hand, alongside half a zucchini, broad beans, some organic freekeh and my favourite goats feta.

It all came together in a matter of minutes, discounting the ‘inactive cooking time’ required for wholegrain freekeh (about 45 minutes, which I spent drinking a Hendricks gin and tonic).

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When seasoning this salad, keep in mind that the salmon retains a lot of saltiness from the curing and smoking process. You’ll only need a little bit of salt to balance the rest of the dish.

However, if you generally avoid smoked fish, feel free to omit the salmon completely or substitute chunks of fresh seared salmon as desired. Whichever way, it’ll be delicious.

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Freekeh and Herb Salad with Hot-Smoked Salmon, Pomegranate and Feta

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main meal

  • 180g hot-smoked salmon fillets (preferably plain or peppered, not flavoured) roughly torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup wholegrain freekeh, rinsed
  • 1 cup broad beans (fresh or frozen are fine), double-podded
  • 1/2 medium zucchini, washed and diced
  • 1 cup washed and coarsely chopped mint, coriander and parsley leaves
  • a big handful of washed baby spinach leaves
  • About 60g marinated feta, chopped or broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup toasted, crushed nuts (I used almonds but pistachios or pine nuts would be wonderful)
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (arils) – about 1/2 large pomegranate
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • juice from 1/2 lemon + 1-2 tsp finely grated rind
  • 3-4 tsp Brookfarm lemon myrtle infused macadamia oil
  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses, or to taste

Place freekeh into a pot over high heat with 2 1/2 cups boiled water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 40 minutes or until the grains are softened but intact (they should still have a bit of ‘bite’ to them). Transfer to a large bowl, then set aside to cool slightly.

Heat 1 tsp Brookfarm lemon myrtle infused macadamia oil in a heavy-based pan over medium heat. Add zucchini and cook until slightly translucent. Add broad beans to the pan and continue cooking until the vegetables are light golden.

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Transfer to the same bowl as the freekeh (add any cooking juices that have collected in the pan).

Mix the lemon juice and rind, the rest of the Brookfarm oil, pomegranate molasses and sherry vinegar in a small bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl (reserve a bit of feta and some pomegranate arils to garnish, if desired), drizzle over the dressing and mix well.

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Serve on a platter, garnished with the reserved feta and arils. Drizzle with a little more Brookfarm oil or pomegranate molasses if desired.

This salad is beautiful on its own, as a barbecue accompaniment or just wrapped in warm, fresh flatbreads with a smear of homemade hummus (perfect for lunch).

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Disclaimer: Brookfarm supplied me with a sample of their lemon myrtle infused macadamia oil for the purpose of this recipe post. However, I was not compensated and as always, all opinions are my own.

seared salmon with herbed roast potatoes

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A few months ago, I promised a recipe for my husband Aaron‘s favourite dinner: crispy-skinned salmon with roast potatoes and asparagus. It never happened; mostly as whenever I cooked it, the lighting in our kitchen was bad or it was just too late in the evening for photography (ah, food blogger problems).

However, seeing as we’ve had beautifully light, hot summer days over the past few weeks, you’re finally getting the promised salmon recipe. I hope that it’s worth the wait.

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Seared Salmon

Now, to start I should probably clarify that this is more of a ‘method’ than a recipe. Cooking fish is rather intuitive, so the object of this post is to help you gain familiarity with the process of cooking a perfectly pink, crisp-skinned piece of salmon. It’s definitely not as hard as one might think.

Start by choosing one piece of fish per person. I always choose a 150-175g (5-6 oz) skin-on salmon fillet (cut from the sides of the fish; often boneless) per person; look for fish that is bright, firm and ‘fresh-smelling’ (there should be no overly strong ‘fishy’ odour). Salmon steaks (cross-sections of the fish which always have a central piece of backbone) are also delicious, however you’ll have a harder time achieving a good piece of crispy skin.

Place your salmon skin-side up onto a clean chopping board. Take a good look at it in the light; if you can see any glistening scales, remove them by running your knife at a 90 degree angle against the skin. When the scales have detached, brush them off with a piece of kitchen paper. Run your finger against the grain of the fish to check for ‘pin bones‘, the small floating bones that occasionally remain embedded in the soft flesh after the fish is filleted. If you can feel the tips of any bones, remove them with a pair of tweezers and discard them.

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Season the skin well with sea salt flakes, then leave the fillets for a few minutes or until moisture pools on the skin (the salt helps to pull the moisture out of the skin). Blot the skin with paper towels until it’s as dry as possible, then add a little more sea salt. You’re now ready to cook.

Heat some good quality oil (with a high smoke point; I usually use Brookfarm cold-pressed macadamia oil however the more neutral grapeseed oil will perform equally well) in a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes or until hot (but not smoking).

Gently place the salmon fillets into the pan, skin-side down, leaving a 2cm gap between fillets (if you have more fish than this allows, you will need to cook your fillets in batches). Cook, skin-side down, for 4-5 minutes depending upon the thickness of your fish. You should see the colour rising on the side of the fillet; when it reaches about half of the way up, season the skinless side of the fillet with salt and pepper, then flip it over.

skinCook for another 3-4 minutes or until the fish easily flakes with a fork (if you’re testing the sides of the fillet with your fingers, it should still have a slight ‘spring’ to it… salmon is best served when it’s still slightly soft and pink in the centre).

Serve immediately, while the skin is still crispy*, with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus or salad.

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* Note to food bloggers: do not leave the crispy-skinned salmon on a plate in a humid kitchen for ten minutes (whilst arranging, primping and photographing it) before serving it to your husband (sorry Aaron)

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Herbed Roasted Potatoes

  • 2 medium red or purple potatoes (200-250g) per person
  • olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, lightly bashed with the back of a knife
  • small bunch of rosemary, thyme and sage
  • smoked sea salt (I use Gewürzhaus Salish Alder smoked sea salt)
  • cracked black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Wash your potatoes and roughly dice them into 3 cm chunks, then place them into a pot of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat.

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Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until just cooked (should be just tender when pierced with a fork). Drain well and leave for a few minutes until any remaining water evaporates. Shake your strainer to slightly roughen the surface of your potatoes, then sprinkle them with smoked sea salt and black pepper.

Pour about 2 tbsp oil into a large roasting pan with the garlic cloves and herbs . If you have a gas hob, place the pan over the heat until the herbs start to crackle; alternately, place the roasting pan into the oven for 5 minutes or until hot. Carefully tip the potatoes into the hot oil, toss and return the pan to the hot oven.

tatiesdoneRoast the potatoes for 30 minutes; turn and roast for another 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels and add a little more salt if necessary. Serve with sour cream or aioli alongside the seared salmon with a green salad or some grilled asparagus.

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