Now that spring is officially here, we're ready to put aside the hearty winter fare that saw us through the cold months and move on to something new. Something fresh, crisp and, most importantly, tasty.
These grain salads taste so good I am willing to overlook the fact that they may, in fact, be good for me. They are also easy to cook and can be prepared a day or more in advance. They make perfect spring side dishes. Because the grain gives them enough substance to be satisfying, they can even be served as a main course on light-eating days.
Freekeh is a young roasted green wheat grain that can be bought from most Middle Eastern delis.
Quinoa is a grain-like crop grown originally in South America for its edible seeds. Closely related to beetroot and spinach, it is found in supermarket health food sections, health food shops or nut and spice shops.
FREEKEH SALAD WITH PERSIAN FETTA
1 stick celery, finely diced
3 red eschallots, finely diced
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1 bay leaf
200g freekeh, rinsed under cold water
6 green onions, finely sliced
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup mint, roughly chopped
100g roasted hazelnuts, skinned and roughly chopped
2 lemons, juiced
100ml extra virgin olive oil
300g Persian feta
Place butter, celery, eschallots, garlic and bay leaf in a medium-sized saucepan, and sweat vegetables over a low heat for 10 minutes. Add freekeh to the pan and stir to ensure the grain is coated with butter. Add 230ml of water to the pan, bring to boil and cover with a lid. Continue to cook on a low heat on the stovetop. Check after 12 minutes and taste a small amount - the larger the grain, the longer the cooking time. When sufficiently cooked (soft but still al dente), remove freekeh from the pan and spread out on a large plate to cool quickly without overcooking. When cold, it can be kept in an airtight container for two days. To assemble the salad, mix green onions, chopped herbs, hazelnuts and currants with the freekah. Mix lemon juice and oil, dress the salad, crumble the feta over and serve.
Serves 6 (pictured)