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.

broadbeans

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.

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courgette salad with lemon myrtle oil, chilli and mint

closeupThere’s something beautiful about summer squash. Their firm, sweet flesh requires little more than a brief flash in the pan before being served, drizzled in oil with a smattering of fragrant herbs.

I love them, whether they’re roasted, grilled, steamed or charred on a hot barbecue… particularly with lots of lemon, minted yoghurt and chilli. Perfectly easy food for summer nights.

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Over the past week, Aaron and I have eaten a lot of summer squash. Our first taste was fresh from Vicky’s garden, thick slices of charred green and yellow courgette bathed in olive oil, black pepper and herbs. We ate with sticky fingers and wide grins as the sun dropped below the horizon, breathing the scent of fresh eucalyptus on the wind.

That evening, our conversation rambled for hours. Plates were refilled, emptied and eagerly mopped up with torn ciabatta. Fresh air, open space and good company makes everything taste better. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

mint

Back to tonight’s courgette adventure. To be honest, it was more the product of an after-work ‘fridge hunt’ than anything else. Lucky for me, fresh goats cheese, herbs and lemons are staple refrigerator items, alongside home-cured olives, various nuts and grains.

I added these to a bag of fresh baby courgettes that I picked up at the weekend market, shiny and glistening in their skins. In an hour, dinner was on the table: roast chicken, courgette salad, hummus, garlicky tzatziki, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and olives. Summer food done simply.

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The recipe below is more of a ‘concept’ than a strict statement of quantities. It’s a dish that I make often with ingredients that I have on hand (you’ll see that I’ve added some ‘optional’ suggestions in the ingredients list) so all in all, it’s very forgiving.

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In my mind, courgettes partner beautifully with mint, however you could easily substitute coriander or basil as desired. If you’re gluten or wheat intolerant, just switch out the bulgur for cooked and cooled quinoa as a deliciously wholesome alternative.

It may go without saying, but this recipe works brilliantly with all summer squash including yellow squash, pattypans, tromboncinos and crooknecks… just ensure that they’re sliced similarly for ease of cooking.

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Courgette Salad with Macadamia Lemon Myrtle Oil, Chilli and Mint

Serves 4 as a side dish

  • 6-8 small courgettes (zucchini), washed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup fine grit bulgur (burghul)
  • 1/2 long red chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds if you’d like less heat)
  • mint and parsley leaves (about 1/4 cup in total) washed and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • good squeeze of lemon juice
  • about 30g goats cheese, crumbled (substitute good quality feta)
  • Brookfarm macadamia oil infused with lemon myrtle (substitute another lemon infused oil or good quality extra virgin olive oil)
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • optional: toasted, crushed pistachio nuts or macadamias (sprinkle over to serve)
  • optional: small handful of pitted green olives, finely sliced

Heat a large griddle pan over high heat until hot but not smoking. Toss the courgettes in a little macadamia oil then lay them in a single layer onto the hot griddle, ensuring that each piece is in contact with the hotplate.

griddle

Cook for 5 minutes each side or until cooked through and slightly charred.

Place the raw bulgur into a heatproof bowl or jug. Cover with boiling water until fully submerged, then cover with plastic wrap or an upturned plate.

bulgur

Leave for 10 minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.

bulgur2

Place the chilli, mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper into a small bowl (if using olives, combine at this point). Drizzle over a good slug of lemon myrtle macadamia oil, then toss to coat.

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When the bulgur has cooled, combine with the chilli, mint and lemon mixture. Mix well.

Lay the courgettes out onto a serving plate. Top with the seasoned bulgur (make sure to pour over all of the juices) then crumble over the goats cheese.

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Grind over some cracked black pepper then drizzle over some extra lemon myrtle macadamia oil. Add some chopped mint and/or toasted, crushed nuts if desired.

sideplateBrookfarm macadamia oil infused with lemon myrtle is an award-winning high quality oil produced in New South Wales, Australia. It has a high smoke point (210 degrees C / 410 degrees f) and the beautiful herbal tang of lemon myrtle, an Australian spice that is unique to the northern rivers.

Brookfarm macadamia oil infused with lemon myrtle is a wonderful accompaniment to seafood, vegetable and pasta dishes. Find stockists here.

brookfarm

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

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