I love a good salad – something a bit different and unusual. I came across freekeh when testing recipes for an Egyptian cookbook called The Cairo Kitchen, and have been using it ever since. It is a beautiful grain which has a beautiful smoky nutty flavour. Far from the bland flavours we are used to when eating grains. It can be tricky to get your hands on but it is becoming ever more popular so persevere – it’s worth it!
I have blitzed up some broccoli and used it raw throughout this salad. It was a trial and error attempt- I wasn’t sure it would work. I am not a massive fan of big chunks of blanched broccoli in a salad, and this turned out to be the perfect compromise. It is also a brilliant way of injecting some extra goodness.
The avocado dressing is really lovely, very delicate but still with that wonderful distinctive avocado flavour which ties the whole dish together. Be careful when toasting your pine nuts! Even if you think they are nowhere near ready, as soon as you turn your back on that pan, they will turn into little black bullets before you know what has happened! It takes a few minutes, so enjoy the opportunity to stand still – pine nuts don’t come cheap so the last thing you want to do is burn them!
I think this salad has a bit of panache and style, which makes me feel like it could hold its own as a starter or lunch, so I have demonstrated how you might serve it up as an individual portion in the photo. However, if you are serving it in a big bowl for everyone to help themselves, simply dress all the ingredients and garnish with some pea shoots.
Freekeh with roasted mushrooms, squash, broccoli, pine nuts and an avocado dressing
Preparation time: 20 minutes mins for dressing
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
Equipment needed: 1 medium roasting tin and 1 small roasting tin. Grease proof paper. Grater. Colander or sieve. Large mixing bowl.
1 beef stock cube (chicken or vegetable are fine too)
500g chestnut mushrooms, sliced in half
7-8 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
3 sprigs of rosemary, chopped finely
1 small squash, aprox 300g (if you can’t find a small squash, use the same quantity of butternut squash, chopped into chunky cubes)
125g raw broccoli
50g pine nuts, toasted*
Handful of pea shoots, (if you cannot get these, rocket or baby spinach would make an adequate substitute.)
1 small avocado, aprox 200g
2 tbsp of greek yogurt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200’C, 400’F, gas mark 6
- Rinse the freekeh under cold water and cook according to packet instructions with the beef stock cube (you can use a vegetarian or gluten free stock cube here) When it is cooked, drain, rinse in cold water and set aside.
- Slice the mushrooms in half and place into a medium roasting tin and cover with the chopped thyme and rosemary. Season with some salt and pepper, and a small drizzle of olive oil and roast for 20 minutes.** Half way through roasting, remove from the oven and drain off the liquid released by the mushrooms. Return to the oven to finish cooking and when ready set aside to cool.
- Roast the squash at the same time as the mushrooms. Place the squash in the small roasting tin, drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes, turning over half way through.
- Blitz the broccoli in a hand held blender or standard blender, until it resembles bread crumbs.
- To make the dressing, slice the avocado in half, remove the stone, and scoop out the flesh using a spoon. Blitz the avocado a little before adding the yogurt, olive oil and water. Blend to a smooth puree. Season to taste and set aside.
- Place the freekeh in a large bowl and mix in the blitzed broccoli, followed by the mushrooms. Slice each squash in three and add these too. Add three quarters of the pine nuts and thoroughly coat the salad with the dressing. Add a drop of olive oil if you feel it is necessary. Season to taste and finish by garnishing with the pea shoots and the remaining pine nuts.
The all important *stars*
*To toast nuts, simply put them in a pan on a medium heat, standing over and watching and stirring them constantly until starting to brown. Be really careful-they burn extremely quickly. Always remove them from the pan immediately after cooking as the heat of the pan will continue to cook them and they will burn.
**Mushrooms release a lot of liquid when the cook so you only need to add the smallest drizzle of olive oil.