Freekeh, if you haven’t come across it before, is roasted green wheat, with a nutty, often smoky flavour. It’s widely used in the Middle East and can be bought cracked, wholegrain and even ready-cooked.
It’s good in soups and salads and can substitute for rice or bulgur wheat in a pilaf. I’ve used it here as the basis for an asparagus salad, in a recipe only slightly adapted (with her permission) from Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana.
This works well as a summer lunch or as a side dish. I served it alongside a tomato and pepper salad, based this time on Felicity Cloake’s panzanella, but replacing her soft, silky bread with crunchy black olive croutons.
Asparagus and Freekeh Salad
90g freekeh, cooked according to packet instructions (or 250g sachet of pre-cooked)
400-500g asparagus, stems snapped where they bend
2 tbsp olive oil
50g pistachio kernels, roughly chopped (optional)
For the dressing:
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tspn harissa paste
1 heaped tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp olive oil
Rinse the freekeh and cook according to the packet instructions. These vary but the general rule of thumb is one part cracked freekeh to two and a half or three parts of salted water, cooked for 15-20 minutes until tender; wholegrain freekeh will need more water and take longer. It will roughly treble in weight once cooked.
Mix together the dressing ingredients. Once the freekeh is cooked and if necessary, drained, stir through two tbsp of dressing while it’s still warm and set the rest aside.
Pre-heat a dry griddle pan to medium-high. Blanch the trimmed asparagus in lightly boiling water for one minute. Drain and run under cold water. Dry, then toss in a bowl with the two tbsp of olive oil.
Griddle in batches, turning often, until char marks appear, about four or five minutes. Cut into 3cm lengths, saving the tips for garnish.
Gently mix most of the asparagus into the freekeh. Spoon onto a platter, scatter the tips on top, and dot over teaspoons of ricotta. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with more of the dressing and finish with the pistachios, if using.