Cypriot Grain Salad

Cypriot Grain Salad

Cypriot Grain Salad 

Original recipe by George Calombaris

This Cypriot Grain Salad, originally by George Calombaris, has featured at our Christmas table for the last 12-15 years. When I first started making it, the children were very young and time was always of the essence – so I took a few shortcuts and I also did a little pre-prep. I toasted the nuts on Christmas Eve. This really helped on Christmas Day, as it saved me 30 minutes of pan-watching and nut-tossing. I also used fine bulghur instantly cooked with boiling water, and canned lentils, rather than cooking the freekeh and French lentils from scratch, as the original recipe called for.  

As I have made the salad over the years, I have modified ingredient quantities. I have doubled the nut and blackcurrant quantities and I have learned a few tricks to truly perfect this salad. 

The children are all grown up now and they even help me make the salad, so now we usually make it with the dried freekeh and dried French lentils – but no matter which way we make it, it is still a hit at our table.

Wishing you all peace, love, and deliciousness at your Christmas table.


• 50 g slivered almonds

• 60 g pumpkin seeds

• 70 g pine nuts

• 100 g dried blackcurrants

• 65 g capers in vinegar/brine (include a little of the vinegar/brine)

• 180 g dry freekeh – boil till al dente, strain, spread across a large plate and cool completely

• 100 g dry French lentils – boil till al dente, strain, spread across a large plate and cool completely. Zorbabook note: if you can find Greek lentils from eglouvi, Lefkada island even better!

• 75 g coriander leaves and fine stalks, washed and chopped

• 40 g continental parsley leaves and fine stalks, washed and chopped

• 125 g red onions, finely diced

• Arils of 1 pomegranate

• 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

• 1-2 lemons, juiced

• 1-2 tsp Salt to taste


Preparing the Cypriot Grain Salad

o Mix the blackcurrants with the capers, so the blackcurrants absorb the vinegar juices from the capers and they plump up a little.

o Toast the nuts/seeds all together, till they brown nicely. Toss them often once they begin to warm. Make sure they cool completely before adding them to the salad.

o If the nuts/seeds/freekeh/lentils are still warm/hot when mixed into the salad, the heat will cook the herbs, which will not be nice! So make sure they have all cooled completely! 

o Mix all the salad ingredients just before serving, as you don’t want the nuts to absorb too much of the dressing and soften. You want their texture to remain crunchy.

o Check the salad for EVOO, salt and lemon juice and add more as required.

o This salad is beautifully delicious as it is. I find the optional yoghurt dressing masks the freshness and flavours of the salad, but taste is subjective. So try it both ways and decide which way you prefer.

o This salad is the perfect side to any of your cooked meats and perfect for a Sunday barbecue. So make it and/or take it to any gathering and enjoy!

Preparing the dressing (optional)

o Combine 1 cup thick Greek yoghurt, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 tablespoon honey.

Same, same, different

o If you are pressed for time or prefer the texture of bulghur to freekeh, then add 3 cups of boiling water to 1.5 cups of fine bulghur (I use the Duru brand) and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

o Using a fork, gently fluff the bulghur and transfer it to a large plate to cool

o Drain and rinse 2 cans of lentils, spread them across a large plate and allow them to dry out a little

o Note: The canned lentils will be salted, so adjust your salt seasoning accordingly

o I use about ¾ of the bulghur and ¾ of the lentils