With Nicola & Rachael down from Worcestershire for the weekend to celebrate my birthday, we had a busy day planned for Saturday – which included High Tea at the famous Maids of Honour tea rooms in Kew. With uncertain timings and knowing we’d have more ‘tea’ than I usually do – in fact I don’t usually eat anything with my afternoon cuppa! – a selection of cold mezze and salads with some nice fresh bread from Paul bakery seemed an excellent plan. That way, whatever time we returned to my house, food would be ready; no preparation needed other than removing it from the fridge and laying the table!
Freekeh has become my favourite ‘grain’ over the last couple of years, since discovering it in my local Revital health food store. It has generally become more popular and is quite fashionable. What’s so great about it, apart from it being quick and easy to cook, is the wonderful, nutty flavour. Grains can be pretty boring but freekeh is delicious in its own right – though of course even more delicious with some well-chosen additions! It’s also wonderfully healthy and nutritious.
There are a couple of other freekeh recipes on the blog but I decided to put together this version because with the aubergine and feta, it makes a meal on its own, even though it can work as part of a selection of middle eastern mezze or a side with perhaps some grilled chicken.
Freekeh Salad with Aubergine, Feta & Pomegranate
- 120g freekeh
- 1 aubergine, cut into roughly 1.5cm cubes
- about 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
- ½ pomegranate
- 12 cherry tomatoes
- 100g feta
- small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- juice from the ½ pomegranate (see method below)
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the freekeh into a small saucepan with twice the volume of water (120g freekeh is roughly 1 cup). Add some salt and bring to the boil, turn low and allow to simmer until the water is almost absorbed. Check whether it’s tender just before all the water has gone as I sometimes find it doesn’t need quite that amount – you want it cooked but to retain a bit of a bite. Drain and allow to cool.
While the freekeh is cooling, prepare the aubergine. Trim the ends off the aubergine and cut into smallish cubes. Put a couple of tablespoons of the oil into a large frying pan and fry the aubergine over a medium heat, turning frequently so it doesn’t burn. Add a little more oil if necessary as aubergines do soak up a lot of oil. You want the pieces nicely coated and cooked through but not browned. Once ready, leave to cool.
Cut a pomegranate in half. (The spare half can be added to salads, yoghurt or cereal.) Hold the half you’re using over a bowl with a sieve on it. Squeeze slightly and start to pull open, allowing the pomegranate seeds to collect in the sieve. Remove any bits of the white pith as they’re not pleasant to eat and keep any juice that collects in the bowl for the dressing.
I happened to have a mix of yellow and red cherry tomatoes but just red is fine. Cut about 12 in half.
I used just half my pack of feta but if you’re making this into a meal on its own (it will serve about 2), then you might like to add all the cheese. Feta quite often comes in 200g packs.
Put the drained and cooled freekeh into a large bowl. Add the aubergine, spring onions, pomegranate seeds, tomato halves and parsley and crumble over the feta.
Make the dressing: mix any juice collected from the drained pomegranate seeds with the pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk with a fork and pour over the freekeh salad. Fold in with a spoon and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a serving dish.
You could eat this straight away but it’s quite nice to cover with cling film and leave for about an hour for all the flavours to come together. If you’re leaving it for more than an hour, put in the fridge.
I served it as a kind of mezze meal with hummus, bread, olives and cheeses. It really is so delicious and will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.