Freekeh, a popular Middle Eastern cereal, is green durum wheat that has been roasted and rubbed to create its unique flavour, then cracked (this takes less time to cook than wholegrain freekeh). Its earthy flavour and slightly coarse texture go particularly well with sweet spices, hence the addition of a little cinnamon with the pears – a wonderful match for the Comté. Instead of freekeh, you could use bulgur wheat, but this has a less distinctive flavour, or quinoa – some supermarkets only sell freekeh mixed with quinoa, which would also be fine. Following the packet instructions to cook these other grains as cooking times will vary slightly.
- Toast the pecans: heat oven to 160℃ fan / 180℃ normal and lay the pecans out on a baking sheet, then toast for about 10 minutes, until they give off a rich aroma – but do not let them burn. Let them cool, remove a handful to leave whole and then roughly chop the rest.
- If using cracked freekeh, use one part freekeh to three parts liquid. Put the stock (or water with half a teaspoon of salt added) on to boil, rinse the freekeh in a sieve under cold water and then add it to the boiling liquid, return to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. (Wholegrain freekeh needs more water and a longer cooking time: about 35 to 45 minutes or until tender.) Drain off any remaining water and stir the freekeh with a fork to separate the grains. Leave it to one side to come to room temperature.
- If the skin of the pears is rough and thick, peel them – if not, you can leave it on. Cut them into eighths and cut out the cores. Toss the pears in the oil, cinnamon and a little salt and black pepper. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat for a few minutes and then char each side of the pears so that they have griddle lines and are warm all the way through – you don’t want to overcook them or they will fall apart. Chop half the pears into cubes and leave the rest for later.
- Mix the lemon zest, juice and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper. Mix this through the freekeh and mix in the rocket leaves, the chopped pecan nuts, the cubed pears and most of the Comté. Lay the pear slices on top and scatter over the remaining Comté and pecans.
Recipe © Laura Pope