For a nice grain salad you can wake me up any time. Since I stopped eating meat, grains and vegetables have moved up from being humble side dishes to forming the base of my meals. It’s a development I’m quite happy about and these days I can’t imagine ever having wanted to eat differently. Especially because there are so many delicious options to choose from!
The basics that make up a grain salad are very simple: cooked grains, a nice dressing, fresh or cooked vegetables and a crunchy, protein rich topping, such as nuts or roasted legumes. Starting from here you can vary to your heart’s desire, according to the season and your personal preferences.
The star of this particular salad is freekeh, young green wheat which is roasted during the production process, resulting in a delicious deep flavour. It’s one of my favourite grain varieties, but if it’s not available, you can easily replace it and make the salad with spelt or barley. The same flexible approach goes for the choice of vegetables. In spring you could choose juicy peas, colourful spring veggies and a ton of fresh herbs, while in winter warm roasted pumpkin, root veg and dried fruits make declicious options. This week, now that we can still enjoy the last bit of soft autumn weather, I chose fresh-flavoured, grilled late summer veggies like bell peppers and courgette. A zesty lemon dressing, a generous dose of mixed fresh herbs and a handful of chopped salted almonds for crunch and you’re good to go. A nice and light salad for this period of year when we’re surrounded by seasonal treats…
The vegetables for this salad can be prepared ahead and grilled on a quiet weekend day, after which you only need to cook the grains and toss in the fresh herbs for a quick weekday meal. The salad makes a delicious packed lunch and supper. Combined with a hot bowl of soup, if you like, now that the winter chill really seems to be coming our way….
Grain salad with grilled veg and fresh herbs – serves 4
- 3 yellow bell peppers (or a mixture of red and yellow), halved and deseeded
- 3 courgettes, sliced lengthwise into 4 mm thick ribbons
- 2 tbsp. sunflower oil
- 250 g freekeh
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 tbsp. rapeseed oil or olive oil
- bunch (15 g) of basil, chopped
- bunch (15 g) of dill, chopped
- bunch (15 g) of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- sea salt and freshly grated black pepper, to taste
- 50 g red oak leaf lettuce or baby spinach
- 100 g salted almonds, roughly chopped
The courgette and peppers can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.
Heat the oven grill to high and line a baking tray with aluminium foil. Put the pepper halves on the tray, skin side up, and place them under the grill until the skins are completely black. In my oven this takes 5 minutes, but it may be wise to keep an eye out. Take the peppers out, put them in a heat-resistant bowl and cover with cling film, then leave to cool.
Heat a griddle pan until blazing hot. Thinly brush the courgette strips with the sunflower oil. In batches, place the courgette strips in the griddle pan in a single layer. Cook the strips for 1-2 minutes on each side, until tender and nicely charred. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
When cool enough to handle, peel the charred skins off the peppers. Cut the peppers into bite-sized cubes and set aside.
Bring a pan of water to a boil. Tip in the freekeh and cook for 20 minutes, or according to the instructions on the package, until tender.
Mix in the lemon zest, lemon juice, rapeseed oil and fresh herbs and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Carefully fold in the grilled pepper and the lettuce leaves. Roll up the courgette ribbons and serve alongside the grains. Top with the salted almonds and enjoy lukewarm or at room temperature.
When all prepared in one day, the salad will keep in the fridge for up to two days.