The vibrant and colourful Souk el Tayeb – literally translated as ‘the good market‘ – in downtown Beirut is famed for the way it showcases the produce of local farmers and the very best of Lebanon’s organic ingredients. As you may have observed on Nigel Slater’s recent BBC series featuring the rich and inspiring culinary traditions of the Middle East, the Lebanese are justifiably proud of their ancient tradition of community growing and small-scale agricultural production which means that you can be sure that pretty much everything you buy in the market will be grown with a deep sense of pride, passion and love. For me, like most of the Middle Eastern markets I’ve visited in my life, to meander through it on a slow Saturday morning is a thrilling experience that renders me pretty much speechless with excitement and respect. This super simple freekeh-based salad is a celebration of all that. It’s perfect during the winter as the satisfyingly chewy texture of the nutty grain is beautifully offset by the piquancy of the pomegranate molasses and the vibrancy of the seasonal fruity arils and herbs. It’s literally a celebration on a plate and the perfect addition to the mezze table.
200g roasted freekeh (you can also use couscous)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 400g tin of borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Arils from 1 pomegranate, saving a few to garnish the salad
30g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
30g mint leaves, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
2 tbsp pistachio nuts, roughly chopped, for garnishing
Fresh lemon juice, for garnishing (optional)
Sumac, for garnishing (optional)
For the dressing:
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
How I make it
To a large lidded pan, add the freekeh and cover with 1 litre of cold water, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and partially cover. Allow the freekeh to cook for around 15 minutes until it’s cooked through but still al dente. Drain in a sieve, rinse it in cold water to remove any scum and to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool.
Once cool, place the freekeh in a large mixing bowl and add the borlotti beans, the spring onions, the pomegranate arils and the chopped herbs. Season to your taste.
Finally, whisk the pomegranate molasses with the olive oil, pour over the freekeh mixture and carefully combine. Tumble the salad onto a beautiful plate and garnish with pistachios, a handful of the remaining pomegranate arils and, if you are using them, a squeeze of lemon juice and a light sprinkling of sumac.