I made this beautifully colourful salad for National Nutrition Week last month and it was a real hit. Crispy snow peas, creamy feta, sweet caramelised pumpkin, crunchy pine nuts – what’s not to love? But there’s one ingredient in this salad that you might not be familiar with. It’s touted as an ancient ‘super grain’, the best thing since quinoa! But what exactly is freekeh and how does it stack up nutritionally?
Well, this is freekeh, on the left…
…see those oaty, grainy looking things? It kind of looks like walnuts that have been pulsed in a blender. Yep, that’s freekeh – not too scary looking is it?! Freekeh (pronounced ‘free-ka’) is a whole grain made from young green wheat. When compared to other grains it has more protein and fibre and less sodium per serve for a similar amount of kJ, so it ticks a lot of ‘healthy’ boxes. And it’s pretty damn tasty, so it has that going for it too!
Now, I’m not trying to say you should clear your cupboard of all other grains or anything. While freekeh is good for us, so are other grains, so feel free to add it to your regular rotation. There’s no one food that is superior to all others, so including a variety of different foods is your best bet at getting in everything that your body needs. If you’re stuck for places to use it, try using freekeh in place of rice, couscous, quinoa, risoni or pasta in your favourite dishes. You should be able to find it in the health food section of most supermarkets. It’s pretty simple to cook as you just boil it in a saucepan similar to rice or pasta, so don’t be scared of it! Don’t want to try freekeh or can’t find it? Feel free to sub in some brown rice or quinoa in its place in this recipe.
The original recipe is from the October 2014 issue of Taste magazine, but I added some garlic to the pumpkin (because I love it!) and used snow peas instead of sugar snap peas (because my supermarket didn’t have sugar snap peas when I made this, so I had to use some creativity). Salads are pretty hard to mess up, so feel free to practice your creativity and put your own twist on it!
We had this with grilled meats on the side, but it is pretty filling by itself because of the freekeh so it makes a lovely packed work lunch or a great addition to your picnic basket since the weather is so nice lately!
Roasted maple pumpkin & freekeh salad
600g butternut pumpkin, deseeded, cut into 3cm pieces – you can peel it if you like, but the skin is thin and edible (buy about 700g at the shop to allow for wastage)
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 long red chilli, finely chopped (I left in about half of the seeds for some heat)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, crushed
120g (2/3C) cracked freekeh, rinsed
150g snow peas, trimmed
1C firmly packed mixed fresh herbs (I used mint, parsley and basil – use what is growing in your garden, or whatever you have left over from other meals)
100g reduced fat feta
2 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Place pumpkin, onion and garlic in a baking dish, toss with 1 Tbsp of the oil and season with pepper. Roast in oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile combine chilli, lemon juice and maple syrup. Remove onion from the baking dish, drizzle half of the maple mixture over the pumpkin and return it to the oven for another 10 minutes until the it is golden and caramelised. Whisk rest of oil into remaining maple syrup mixture and set aside to dress salad.
2. Put freekeh and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat, before reducing heat and simmering for 20-25 minutes covered. Drain and refresh under cold water.
3. Combine freekeh, pumpkin, onion, snow peas and herbs in a large bowl. Toss together then top with pine nuts, crumbled feta and maple dressing. Serve by itself or with grilled meats.
Nutrition info (per serve) - 1705kJ, 19.2g fat (4.3g saturated/14.9g unsaturated), 16g protein, 37.9g carbohydrates (17.7g sugars), 289mg sodium, 10.7g fibre. 3.2 vegetable serves. Cost = $3.51.
Why should you eat this? This salad is full of fresh flavour from the herbs and caramelised edges on the pumpkin. The freekeh gives you lots of fibre and a decent amount of protein, which will help to keep you full for a while. It’s also got over half of your vegetable serves for the day, so it’s filled with loads of nutrients to help keep your body working at its best.
Have you tried freekeh before? Share your favourite freekeh recipe in the comments below.