Sunday, 25 March 2018

Freekeh with aubergine and cashews

ancient grains, vegan recipes

Since my husband announced he doesn't eat meat any longer, I started  searching for more varied vegetarian meals rather than the usual suspects like pasta, pizza or soups.
I have a huge library of cook books, yet I could never resist looking at newly published cook books.

New Classics by Marcus Wareing (Harper Collins) has a selection of attractive recipes, and I might buy it, once it appears in The Book people or Sainsbury's.

One of the recipes which has caught my eye was a Vegan aubergine, freekeh and cashew tagine (you can find the full recipe at Great British Chefs site).

I have adapted the recipe, skipping some ingredients, and adding the other. The overall dish is a tasty and flavourful vegetarian/vegan meal, so many thanks to Marcus for the inspiring recipe (please check out his full recipe and step by step, following the link above).

I have never cooked freekeh before, and didn't know what to expect, but taste-wise it is similar to the Italian grain farro.

vegan recipes, ancient grains

Freekeh with aubergine and cashews (serves 4-5)
100g cashew nuts
200g freekeh
a good glug of mild olive oil
1 big onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 big tomato, sliced (optional)
1tbsp ginger paste
2tbsp tomato paste
400ml of passata
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
250ml vegetable stock (made with 2tsp of vegetable bouillon powder)
a big handful of raisins, or sultanas
a handful of dried apricots, chopped (optional)
2 aubergines, skinned and cubed
1tbsp maple syrup (optional)
fresh mint leaves
sea salt
for the spice mix:
2tbsp ground cumin
1tbsp fennel seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
2tsp ground turmeric
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp smoked paprika
1/2tsp sea salt
2tbsp plain flour

First place the cashews in the oven preheated to 180C and bake for about 6 minutes until golden.
Remove from the oven, chop and set aside.
Cook the freekeh following the instructions on the box in 500ml water, for half of the stated time. I didn't drain it, as there was not much liquid left.
In a deep frying pan heat up 2tbsp of olive oil and add the chopped onion, saute for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the garlic and ginger paste and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and passata (I used Cirio), a chopped tomato, vegetable stock, vinegar, chopped apricots and raisins.

The original recipe asks you to heat fry the spices and then crush them with a mortar and pestle. I used the spices without crushing them.
Mix together all the spices with salt and plain flour, and pour them over skinned and cubed aubergines, and mix well so that the aubergine is coated on all sides.

In a deep frying pan heat up the oil (a very generous glug, as aubergines soak up the oil, and not the suggested 2tbsp, that wouldn't be enough). Cook the aubergines, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes.

Pour the tomato and onion sauce over the aubergines and add the freekeh. Mix well, bring to boil, then lower the heat and cook on low for about an hour, stirring often, until the grain is soft.
Serve hot, with a few chopped cashews on top and a bit of chopped mint (coriander or flat leaf parsley).
While the freekeh was cooking, I tried the sauce and found it slightly on the sour side. I was debating in my mind whether to add a teaspoon of sugar or maple syrup, and opted for the maple syrup.

I have completely skipped saffron and black treacle from the recipe. Black treacle has such an overpowering taste, I don't think it would necessarily work in this recipe, though it would add a sweet note. And saffron would also quite disappear among the other strong spices.

Cashews could possibly be swapped for flaked almonds. If you cannot find freekeh, use quinoa or farro.

vegan recipes, vegetarian recipes

In this recipe I used Greenwheat Freekeh from Artisan grains which I found in the local health shop.
It is lightly toasted, cracked grains of young wheat with a distinct nutty taste. It is a source of fibre and is high in protein. This re-discovered ancient grain is one of the latest food trends.

Have you tried freekeh? Which other recipes using this grain would you recommend?

ancient grains, greenwheat frekeh,


  1. I love freekeh, but don't actually cook it.. unfortunately husband wouldnt eat it unless it was covered in sausages? I love aubergines too!

    1. Thank you, Fede! I've seen pouches of pre-cooked freekeh, though haven't tried them. Sausages and freekeh? And why not? :)