super freekeh

freekeh, almond & baby spinach salad

I don’t know about you, but I sure am a sucker for new things in general and new foods in particular. I can’t help myself. When I come across something that I haven’t tried before in my favourite deli or veggie shop or even the supermarket, I feel compelled to pick up the item in question and add it to my shopping, regardless of whether I know what to do with it or not.

A few months ago, I was innocently shopping at my local supermarket when my eye caught an interesting looking pack on an end of aisle display. Having read about the ‘new yet ancient’ grain, Freekeh (pronounced Free-ka) in the paper and how an enterprising Australian outfit had figured out a method to produce it on a large scale, what could I do but adopt a pack of my own.

Apparently Freekeh is actually a wheat based product where the young green wheat is harvested before it is ripe and then the heads are burned in a controlled method so that the husks etc get charred but the berries themselves remain unburned but take on the toasted flavours. According to the marketers, this has the benefit of retaining more protein, fibre and vitamins than traditionally processed wheat and the added bonus of keeping more of the carbohydrates in the ‘resistant starch’ form which isn’t able to be digested in our bodies and so acts like a fibre rather than a carbohydrate.

With all this healthy talk, I was glad that the Freekeh had followed me home, but it was to be a few months before I actually got around to cooking with it. The pack contained recipes which all began with boiling the grain in water in a similar manner to rice, but to be honest, they weren’t exactly inspiring.

So I mulled over it for a while longer until the solution came to me. Why not treat it a bit like burghul or couscous and soften it in stock and then use as a nutty textural interest point in a salad? With a little bit of spicing as a salute to the grains middle eastern heritage, a combo of wilted and whole baby spinach leaves and a crunchy topping of roast almonds. A salad that is fresh yet hearty, the perfect thing for this changeable Sydney weather especially when teamed with the roasting juices of a super moist roast chook like the one from last week… all good things.

freekeh, almond & baby spinach salad
serves 4 as a side dish

If you aren’t lucky enough to have access to Freekeh in your area, never fear, just substitute in burghul or cracked wheat or even good old couscous.

If you want this salad to have a lighter, more summery feel. Halve the amount of baby spinach and skip the wilting step.

Baharat is a Lebanese spice blend that is available from Herbie’s Spices or you could have a go at making your own using the recipe HERE. Or keep it simple as I’ve suggested below and substitute in ground cumin.

100g freekeh
1/2C chicken or vegetable stock
1t baharat or ground cumin
2 bags baby spinach
4T extra virgin olive oil
3T red wine vinegar
large handful almonds, roasted & roughly chopped

Place freekah and stock in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the spices, cover and allow to stand for at least 10mins.

When you’re ready to serve, return the saucepan to the heat and add 2/3 of the baby spinach and cook over a medium heat stirring constantly until spinach has just wilted. Remove from the heat and stir through olive oil and vinegar. Season and transfer to a large salad bowl. Toss through remaining spinach and sprinkle over almonds.

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