I have lots of leeks in the garden that need eating – as some of them are running to seed.
I’ve also been fighting a virus so I came up with a dish that contains lots of vitamin C (parsley and lemon) and alliums (shallot, fennel and leek) – perfect for boosting your immune system!
I thought I’d adapt the recipe on the back of a packet of Freekeh for a Leek Pilaf.
I also included some of my first “late” bulb fennel.
Half of the fennel went into the pilaf – the rest I diced and used to make a salad.
I combined it with a few roasted walnuts, half a chopped apple dressed with a pinch of salt, cider vinegar and olive oil and some finely minced parsley.
In August or September I stupidly planted out some of the fennel in a spot that was too shady and so – desperate for light – it bolted.
But it’s produced the most wonderful umbellifers of acid yellow that along with late-flowering orange calendula and creamy chrysanthemums have brightened up garden at this dismal time of year.
The rest of the fennel looks as if it will be edible – I must mound up the earth/mulch around the pale white bulbs as I’ve found that makes them bigger.
So what on earth is Freekeh!
I’d never heard of it until recently – but it is common in the Middle East.
It reminds me of bulgur, which is the cracked wheat used in tabbouleh – but it has a very different taste.
Freekeh is the young green wheat that’s been smoked and roasted.
I first came upon it a year or so ago in a local wholefood store and then, searching for a recipe, stumbled across one by Ottolenghi in his book, Plenty.
It was slightly too complex for my taste as it had too many competing flavours – the freekeh on it’s own has a strong smoky aroma and taste.
And he served it with yoghurt – which I thought was not really necessary.
But it did whet my appetite and curiosity and so I present you my simple take on Freekeh Pilaf.
- 250 g leeks, quartered lengthways and chopped
- 50 g bulb of fennel, diced
- 1 shallot about 50g in weight, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme or double the amount of fresh
- 1/2 lemon zested and juiced
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 125 g freekeh or bulgur wheat
- 200 ml vegetable stock
- 12 walnut halves chopped
Pour and heat 2 tbsp olive oil into a wide, heavy frying pan or large saucepan on a low to medium heat.
Add the finely chopped shallot, diced leeks and fennel and if you have no fennel just use an extra 50g of leeks to make up the weight. Soften for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don't brown.
Rinse the freekeh in a sieve and add to the pan of leeks etc along with the thyme and the vegetable stock.
Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed (Do add a little more liquid and cook for five minutes more if the freekeh is a still a little crunchy).
Then take off heat and let it stand covered for 10 minutes.
Roast the walnuts under the grill or in the oven for a few minutes - don't let them burn!
Stir in the zest and juice of the half a lemon.
Top with walnuts and parsley.