Today marks the midway point of the Soil Association’s annual “Organic September” campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the value of organic food and organic farming.
Far from being a fad, organic food is, of course, what we all used to eat before chemical-dependent farming began to dominate food production in the latter part of the 20th century. It is real food.
The more of us who choose to buy and grow organic produce, the more we will be supporting sustainable agriculture, which is vital for our collective future.
The Soil Association’s campaign has highlighted some astonishing statistics. For example, 17,800 tonnes of pesticides were used on British farms in 2015, and 1.3 million tonnes of additional carbon would be taken up by the soil if all UK farmland was converted to organic.
The campaign emphasises what a real impact each of us can make by deciding to switch to organic. You can find out more through this link.
On to the recipe, which I have created in association with Suma Wholefoods Cooperative.
Under the terms of our arrangement, every couple of months I select products from the Suma Wholefoods range which Suma provide free of charge. From these I create an original recipe which appears on the Suma website as well here, on the Circus Gardener’s Kitchen.
This recipe, with its nod towards Middle Eastern flavours and ingredients marks the cusp between late summer and early autumn, with sweet, earthy roasted organic beetroot at its heart set against a sharp, zesty dressing and a range of complementary flavours and textures. You can vary the ingredients according to your palate and what you have available.
I’ve made this dish with both “normal” beetroot and choggia (candystripe) beetroot, both grown organically in my garden, and it works just as well with either.
Freekeh is young green durum wheat that has been toasted or smoked and cracked. It imparts a subtle, smoky flavour to this dish. If you can’t source freekeh try using farro, barley, bulgar wheat, couscous or quinoa.
Barberries are small, slightly sour fruits used predominantly in Persian cooking. If you cannot source them use the same weight of dried cranberries, currants or sultanas in their place.
roast beetroot, halloumi and freekeh salad
2 large beetroot
250 g block halloumi cheese
250 g freekeh
40 g pine nuts, lightly toasted
25 g dried barberries
1 small red onion, finely sliced
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
for the dressing
80 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp lemon zest
juice of one lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F, gas mark 5). Peel the beetroot and cut into 2-3 cm chunks. Place in a roasting dish. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and toss to combine. Cover the roasting tin with a sheet of kitchen foil and place in the pre-heated oven to roast for 30 minutes or until just tender. Remove from the oven and set to one side to cool.
2. Rinse the freekeh and steam (preferably) or boil then simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat, drain through a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Set to one side.
3. While the freekeh is cooking, place the barberries in a bowl and cover with hot water. Leave for 10 minutes then drain.
4. Cut the halloumi in half lengthways, then slice each half crossways into thin slices. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a frying pan and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the halloumi slices (depending on the size of your pan you may need to fry them in batches). Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until soft and slightly coloured. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool.
4. For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest and garlic.
5. To assemble the salad, place the freekeh in a large bowl. Add the halloumi, beetroot, red onion, pine nuts, barberries, parsley and mint. Pour over the dressing and toss to combine.