Picture yourself sitting at a table for six on chairs painted in a faded shade of Aegean blue, its white cotton cloth billowing in the warm breeze, the sea slowly lapping onto the beach just yards from your feet. Women, invariably dressed in black, sit on a bench cracking pistachio shells as they gossip about their errant husbands, most of whom can be found at the local taverna downing small glasses of milky retsina chased by tiny cups of thick sweet coffee. They too are gossiping. The fishing boats coming in and out of the harbour are delivering fish to the few who stand waiting, or passengers carrying baskets of fresh vegetables and the odd live chicken. Such is Greek island life. The centrepiece of your table is this salad, a beyond sexy mix of nutty spelt, creamy chickpeas, peppery rocket, roasted red peppers, briny black olives and fresh parsley with a punchy honey, lemon, oregano and chilli dressing. It’s a firm favourite on my Greek-inspired lunch menu at the School House Gallery and it’s just wonderful served up on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon alongside a classic feta and greens spanakopita, a deeply naughty mountain of garlicky, lemony roasted potatoes garnished with wild oregano – I always make too many, it’s the law around here – a funky bowl of fava dip dressed with capers, freshly-baked flatbreads and frosty glasses of Kourtakis retsina. Opa, the summer begins!
200g pearled spelt, rinsed
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
450g jar of Karyatis roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped
A generous handful of Kalamata olives, cut into quarters
125g bag of wild rocket, roughly chopped
30g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (you can also use fresh mint)
A generous pinch of sea salt
Dried wild oregano or pul biber, for garnishing
For the dressing:
8 tbsp of Greek extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp of Greek honey
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Half tsp of dried wild oregano
Half tsp of chilli flakes (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to your taste
How I make it
In a large pan, cover the spelt with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, partially cover and allow the grains to simmer until they are cooked but still al dente (around 15-20 minutes). Drain through a sieve and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
In the meantime, make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a clean jam jar. Firmly screw on the lid and shake vigorously to combine. Check the seasoning and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled cooked spelt and all the other ingredients. Dress to your taste and tumble everything onto a beautiful plate. Garnish with a wild sprinkling of wild oregano or pul biber.