Julia’s Fresh-Yet-Filling Cucumber, Freekeh and Poached Chicken Salad with Yoghurt Tahini

Julia Busuttil Nishimura creates the perfect lunchtime salad; one that is crunchy, creamy, fresh, and, of course, full of flavour. We’re talking about her cucumber, freekeh and poached chicken salad with yoghurt tahini.

This little beauty is the perfect weekday lunch that will keep you going until dinner time. And, even better, it’s totally customisable. Vegetarian? Swap out the chicken for boiled eggs! Don’t have freekeh? No problem! Simply substitute with your favourite grain. No matter how you make it – this salad is a winner!

Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s perfect lunchtime salad! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Pickled red onions add the perfect tang to this meal! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

This salad ticks all the boxes; creamy, crunchy, sweet, tangy and fresh.  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

If freekeh isn’t available to you, simply substitute with brown rice, quinoa or couscous. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura
15th of March 2022

With many of us still working from home, lunch is arguably the most important meal of the day. I love making a salad for lunch, but I have some criteria; It should be interesting (textural and full of flavour), substantial to keep me going until dinner, and nice and fresh. This salad ticks all these boxes! It has crunch and creaminess, plus brightness from the pickled onions, and is very filling thanks to the freekeh and poached chicken. Perfect lunchtime goodness!

I’ve chosen freekeh (green roasted wheat), as the base of this salad as it is really satisfying to eat and holds its integrity, which means no soggy leftovers. You can buy whole or cracked freekeh. I suggest cracked freekeh as it cooks quicker while still retaining a nice bite. If you don’t have any on hand, substitute it with your favourite grain; quinoa, barley, blugar, farro or brown rice will also work really well. The chicken is poached in a lightly flavoured broth, but you can also use leftover roast chicken or swap it out for some hard-boiled eggs as a vegetarian option.

A lunchtime salad to keep you full until dinner. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Cucumber, Freekeh and Poached Chicken Salad with Yoghurt Tahini

(Serves 4)

200g cracked freekeh, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
3 fresh bay leaves
Sea salt
2 x 250g skinless chicken breast fillets
2 slices of lemon
2 tbsp dry white wine
A few sprigs of parsley
1 shallot, halved
4 peppercorns
3 (550g) Lebanese cucumbers, roughly chopped
50 g pine nuts, toasted
Handful of mint and coriander leaves

Quick pickled onion

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
½ tsp sumac (optional), plus extra to serve

Yoghurt tahini

2 tbsp tahini
250g natural yoghurt
Juice of half lemon
1 clove garlic, finely grated
Sea salt and black pepper


Heat a pot over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the freekeh, one of the bay leaves and a good pinch of salt. Toast the grains for just a minute, stirring often. Cover with 600ml of hot water and bring to the boil. Cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes then reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for a further 10-12 minutes or until al dente. Top the pot up with a little liquid if necessary. Keep covered and allow to stand for 10 minutes, then stir well.

Place the chicken, lemon, wine, bay leaves, parsley, shallot and peppercorns with a pinch of salt in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer then immediately turn off the heat and allow the chicken to sit in the poaching liquid for 8 minutes. Remove from the liquid and allow to rest for another 10 minutes then slice.

For the quick pickled onion, place all ingredients in a small bowl and use your hands to scrunch the onions into the salt and vinegar, ensuring everything is well coated. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Combine all of the ingredients for the tahini yoghurt in a medium bowl and season to taste. The consistency should be like a thick dressing, so thin out with a little room temperature water if needed. Mix well to combine.

Spread the tahini yoghurt on the base of a serving platter. Top with the freekeh and arrange the chicken and cucumber on top. Scatter over the toasted pine nuts, pickled onions, mint and coriander leaves. Drizzle over a little more olive oil, season with salt and sprinkle over some extra sumac.

What else I’m cooking with…

The first of beautiful autumn produce is here and I couldn’t be more thrilled. New season potatoes are so good right now. I love the variety available from Spud Sisters – they sell so many kinds and if they have Andean Sunrise potatoes in stock, you know you’re in for a treat. So amazingly creamy, perfect for roasting and mashing. I’m also excited for Australian new season grapes. I love adding them to the tray along with some herbs and onions when I’m roasting a chicken. They become all caramelised and soft, releasing their sweet juices into the pan and look gorgeous too.

What else I’m eating…

The sour cherry and chocolate Swiss roll from Falco Bakery. Half Tokyo bakery vibes and half 90s small town Australian bakery nostalgia – fully delicious!!

Click here to download recipe printout!

Click here to download recipe printout!

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