Freekeh is made from green wheat. The unripe grains are roasted to burn away the husk and the result is a nutty, gently smoky sensation that has been widely eaten across the Arab world for thousands of years, ever since—so the story goes—an ancient Middle Eastern city got word of an imminent attack by invaders. Although their wheat crop was not yet ripe, the residents harvested it in preparation for a siege; then the city came under fire and the wheat stores burned. Desperate to eat, the city dwellers rubbed the husks off the burnt wheat and found that the grain within was not only edible but delicious.
It’s quite a backstory for a grain that was found only in Middle Eastern and health-food stores prior to landing on supermarket shelves when the “superfood” train rolled into town not so long ago. Cooks looking for an alternative to quinoa seized on freekeh’s high protein content and freakish fibre levels—between three and four times as much as brown rice. But the thing that really makes freekeh a winner is its flavour and nutty texture.
Freekeh (also spelled freekah) pops up in everything from Egyptian stuffings to Lebanese porridges and Turkish pilafs. It’s part of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cast of key ingredients and a hero component of George Calombaris’ can’t-take-it-off-the-menu Cypriot grain salad.
Fiona Hammond’s recipe combines freekeh with some of its favourite friends: spices, vegetables, herbs and a yoghurt-and-garlic sauce. It’s filling, nutritious and exciting enough to make a complete meal in itself but will also work beautifully as a substantial side for grilled or roasted meat, chicken or fish.
“The freekeh is delicious served hot or at room temperature,” Fiona says. “Any leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days.”
- Place the freekeh into a bowl and add enough cold water to just cover. Leave to soak for 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Weigh the carrot and sweet potato into the Thermomix and chop 3 seconds/speed 5, there should still be visible pieces. Set aside in a second bowl.
- Add the onion to the Thermomix and chop 3 seconds/speed 5. Scrape down sides of the bowl, add the oil and cook for 5 minutes/100 degrees/speed soft with MC off.
- Transfer the onion to the bowl with the carrot and add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, ground spices and salt.
- Drain the freekeh and squeeze out any excess moisture. Add it to the bowl and stir to combine thoroughly. Spoon this freekeh mixture into the Thermomix basket.
- Pour the stock into Thermomix bowl and set the basket in place.
- Cook for 20 minutes/100 degrees/speed 4 with the MC in. At the end of the time, stir the peas through and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
- While the freekeh is cooking, make the yoghurt sauce and toasted almonds.
- Transfer cooked freekeh mixture to a large bowl and toss it around to let the steam escape. Let the mixture cool until warm.
- Stir through the roughly chopped herbs and the preserved lemon. Taste and season with extra salt if needed.
- Spoon the freekeh onto individual plates or one serving platter. Serve with yoghurt sauce and the almonds and pomegranate seeds scattered over.
- Stir all the ingredients together.
- Heat butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add almonds and toss thoroughly, cook for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside on paper towel.