This recipe started life with a Georgian dish of aubergines stuffed with a spicy walnut paste I made a while back; it was quite good although I wasn’t too keen on the amount of vinegar but it did give me an idea for a sauce to go with an Ottolenghi style salad. I also wanted to include some sort of grain but not quinoa since I’ve used that a fair bit recently.
I was initially thinking of using bulgur and was going to burn an aubergine and stir its finely chopped flesh in to give a nice smoky flavour; however, aubergines aren’t great at this time of year so I decided to use a smoked form of wheat from the Middle East called freekah instead. This is where I ran into a bit of a problem though: it’s very difficult to find here in Dublin.
After a bit of Googling I was still no closer to finding a source so I decided it was worth a shot getting in touch with the guys behind Brother Hubbard on Capel Street through Twitter given they’re big fans of Ottolenghi too. Sure enough within minutes I had a reply with the generous offer to sell me some of their own stock as they’d trouble finding it themselves and had to get it through a wholesaler. I thought that was a lovely touch and I’m really grateful to Garrett for sorting me out when I distracted him in the middle of a heaving service on a Saturday afternoon.
The other main focus of the salad is beetroot and I was delighted to find both the golden and candy stripe varieties in Fallon & Byrne because it’s incredibly rare for them to stock either never mind both; I left the striped versions raw, as they lose their lovely colour when cooked, and roasted the rest.
Other than that, aside from the kale and a few Middle Eastern herbs like dill and mint added at the end, there’s also a final sprinkling of some pomegranate seeds: another nod to the Georgian dish which inspired me as they’re the traditional garnish.
For the walnut sauce
30ml olive oil
2.5g coriander seeds, ground
2.5g fenugreek seeds, ground
200g Greek style yoghurt
10ml pomegranate molasses
½ clove garlic, crushed
For the freekeh salad
2 medium golden beetroot
2 medium red beetroot
1 medium candy stripe beetroot, sliced thinly with a mandolin
300ml vegetable stock
75g kale, shredded (middle stalk removed)
½ pomegranate, seeds only
- For the walnut sauce, preheat the oven to 180°C and then toast the walnuts for 10 minutes.
- Remove the nuts and, reserving a few for garnish, place, along with all the other ingredients for the sauce, in a blender.
- Process until a fairly smooth puree. Check the seasoning and correct if necessary.
- For the freekah salad, cover the golden and red beetroot with oil and season with salt.
- Wrap the beets individually in tinfoil and roast in the oven with the walnuts for an hour until tender.
- Remove the beets from the foil and rub off the skin. Reserve and keep warm.
- Place the freekah and vegetable stock in a pot with some salt.
- Bring to the boil and then place on pot a low heat and cover.
- Cook for 20 minutes and then remove from the heat and leave to steam for 10 minutes.
- Over a medium heat, pour some oil into a frying pan and add the kale with a splash of water.
- Sauté until the kale has softened, around 5-7 minutes.
- Add the freekah, kale, mint, dill and cumin to a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Divide the mixture between two plates.
- Pour over the walnut sauce.
- Quarter the roasted beets and arrange on top of the freekah and sauce.
- Dot the candy striped beetroot slices around the salad.
- Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and reserved walnuts and serve.