Many years ago I went to Georgia on a last-minute trip accompanied by a gang of political journalists wanting to write about an attempted coup. While they assessed the state of the nation, I had a memorable few days being fed by terrifically hospitable locals keen to show off their delicious cuisine. In particular, I loved the sweet-sour salads studded with herbs, grains, walnuts and fruit. This is a high-summer homage to the country.
Freekeh salad with nectarine, parsley, cucumber, walnuts and golden halloumi
This works beautifully as part of a meze of dishes, with people digging in using the little gem as scoops.
Prep 20 min
Cook 40 min
150g freekeh, rinsed in several changes of water
1 bunch parsley
½ bunch mint, leaves picked
4 spring onions
3 nectarines, stoned
150g baby tomatoes, quartered
1 big handful walnuts
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
1 pinch ground cumin
Salt and black pepper
2 little gem lettuce, leaves separated
250g halloumi, drained, cut into 5mm slices
Bring a pan of water to a boil and cook the freekeh for 30 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients.
Finely chop the parsley, mint and spring onions and transfer to a large bowl. Cut the nectarines into wedges, then cut the cucumber in half lengthways and, using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Roughly dice into 1-2cm pieces. Roughly chop the walnuts to match and add them all to the bowl.
Once the freekeh is cooked, drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Add to the salad bowl along with two tablespoons of oil, the lemon juice, cumin and plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss well and transfer to a large platter (or individual plates, if you prefer). Scatter the little gem leaves around the edge.
To cook the halloumi, warm up a medium-sized frying pan and, when hot, add the remaining oil. Pat each slice of halloumi dry with kitchen paper and add to the hot oil, turning over when golden – about a minute. When cooked, transfer to the top of the salad and serve at once.
And for the rest of the week
When the last of the nectarines are finished, use pomegranates, blackberries or dried apricots instead. I love this salad with grilled lamb, fish or burgers. Grill the halloumi over the barbecue instead as part of a delicious al fresco feast.