I’ve already talked about my love for Middle-Eastern flavours on the blog and I’m featuring them again today in another couple of recipes.
Dried pulses, fresh produce, herbs and spices, olive oil, lemon, garlic and grains are all characteristic ingredients in dishes from that part of the world. You can probably see why I’m drawn to them, given how naturally vegan-friendly they are, not to mention packed with flavour.
Za’atar is a herb and spice blend widely-used in the Middle-East. Its specifics vary according to region but it usually includes toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme and sumac. It’s used as a seasoning for grilled vegetables, salads, sprinkled on top of hummus and mixed with olive oil and spread on flatbread, known as manakeesh.
I brought a bag of freshly ground sumac home from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul last year and am always on the lookout for new ways to use this tangy, lemony spice. So far I’ve especially enjoyed it rubbed onto roasted potatoes, a light sprinkle on fattoush (cucumber, tomato, herb + pita salad), and now in this spice blend.
I love all the different textures in this salad, with the chewy wheat berries, tender chickpeas, melt-in-the-mouth roast aubergine and juicy fresh tomatoes. The combination made it satisfying enough for a supper salad, alongside my delicious tahini beetroot.Grain and bean salads hold up well for a while in the fridge too so this salad would be perfect to keep on hand for quick lunches throughout the week.
Wheat Berry Salad with Chickpeas + Za’atar
Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
1 1/2C Cooked chickpeas/ 1 Can chickpeas
1/2C Wheatberries OR Farro OR Spelt berries
1 Large aubergine, diced into 1” chunks
1 T Olive oil, 1/2 t cumin seeds, 1/2 t sumac
1 C Cherry tomatoes, halved
2T Lemon juice
1T Olive oil
Salt + Pepper
Large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1-2T Za’atar spice blend
1T Toasted sesame seeds (toast in dry pan over medium heat, tossing occasionally, approx 5 minutes or until fragrant)
1/2 T Dried thyme
1/4 T Ground cumin
* I just made a small amount, enough for this recipe and to rub on a few flatbreads but I recommend doubling the recipe as it’s nice to have prepared for other dishes.
Cook your wheat berries according to the package instructions. I used semi-pearled so they only took 30 minutes but they can take up to an hour. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and leave to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Toss the aubergine chunks with 1T oil, sumac and cumin seeds, spread in an even layer on a baking tray and roast at 200C/400F for 20-30 minutes until brown and very soft.
In a bowl combine wheat berries, chickpeas, warm roasted aubergine and halved cherry tomatoes. Mix in remaining olive oil, lemon juice and plenty of salt and pepper. Sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley and za’atar seasoning to taste. Toss again and serve.
The tahini beetroot I made to go with the salad is a repeat recipe in my kitchen. Everyone who tries it loves the stuff and it’s a great accompaniment to all sorts of dishes, not just those with Middle Eastern flavours.
I cut the beetroot in a different way each time I make it but I think I’ve finally decided that julienned (as in the below picture) is the way to go- greater surface area allowing for maximum sauce coverage.
I originally found the recipe at The Kitchn but now know it off the top of my head.
3-4 Small to medium beetroot, roasted and peeled (Scrub beetroot, slice off greens, wrap loosely in foil, place on a baking sheet and roast at 350C for approx 1 hour, or until the beetroot fall off a knife easily when pierced. Leave to cool and skin should rub off easily)
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t Sea salt
1 1/2T Lemon juice
2-4 T Water
Slice cooled beetroot into thick matchsticks (or your preferred shape)
Use pestle and mortar to grind garlic and salt into a smooth paste. Add tahini and lemon and stir until homogeneous. It will separate initially but keep stirring and it will smooth out. Thin with water to desired thickness.
Combine sauce with beetroot in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. It’s best left an hour or 2 to sit so the sauce soaks in.
Serve with the above salad or with a selection of mezze.