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FROM THE GROCERY SHELF: FREEKEH

FROM THE GROCERY SHELF: FREEKEH

Freekeh has been an item we have sold in the past but due to some limitations with customs we had to stop but last month we had it back on the shelf ready to cook up. A bit of an unknown to a lot of people it is a perfect ingredient for our September theme of Sail the Mediterranean as a product well known in the Middle East. An ancient dish that is very popular in Egypt, Palestine and North Africa freekeh or farik as it is called in Arabic is a wheat based cereal that is picked green and then roasted. The early harvesting of the grain while it is still very soft allows for a very different taste to develop. Being so fresh the wheat itself is harvested and left to sun dry first before the piles of wheat are then lite on fire to allow for the chaff and straw to burn off. This leaves the seed itself that as unripe and green moisture filled seed does not burn. The wheat is then thrashed and sun dried further to create a more even colour. It is then processed through a further thrashing process that simply rubs the grains and this is where the grain gains its name-farik which means “rubbed”.  Once rubbed they are then cracked as they are with bulghar wheat.

In Syria it is used in soups, in Egypt a classic dish is pigeon stuffed with freekeh and in Tunisia they make a bone marrow soup with freekeh. Considered a super grain it has high energy and at least four times more fibre than other comparable grains such as brown rice. With a low glycemic index it is also a great food for those eating consciously.

We have some delicious Freekah recipes in store but it is fast and easy to prepare. Simmer in boiling water uncovered for 10 mins and then reduce the temperature to a low heat and cover . Cook for 10 mins more or until the water is fully absorbed. Allow to cool before adding just about anything!

FREEKEH PILAF

Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS

2  onions, thinly sliced
25g butter
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
150g freekeh
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
270ml vegetable stock
100g Greek yoghurt
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
small handful parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
small handful mint, finely chopped
small handful coriander, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Pinoli pine nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
salt and black pepper

METHOD

Place the onions, butter and olive oil in a large heavy-based pot and sauté on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15–20 minutes. or until the onion is soft and brown.

Meanwhile, soak the freekeh in cold water for 5 minutes. Drain in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Drain well.

Add the freekeh and spices to the onions, followed by the stock and some salt and pepper. Stir well. Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat to a bare minimum and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it covered for 5 minutes. Finally, remove the lid and leave to pilaf to cool down a little, about another 5 minutes.

While you wait, mix the yoghurt with the lemon juice, garlic and some salt.

Stir the herbs into the warm (not hot) pilaf. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon onto serving dishes and top each portion with a generous dollop of yoghurt. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley and finish with a trickle of olive oil.