Move over Quinoa, there’s a new ancient grain on the menu. This one hails from the exotic lands of the Middle East, most popular in Egyptian, Palestinan, as well as neighboring North African cuisines. Similar to bulgar, Freekeh, meaning “rubbed”, it’s name originating from the rubbing process the grains undergo when harvested, has been served and prepared in a variety of ways for millenia; In Egypt, it’s stuffed into a pigeon for roasting, on Tunisia its eaten within a bone marrow soup, and in Syria it is prepared with Lamb, onion, butter, almonds, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin and salt.
With nutritional attributes comparable to other cereals, nutty in flavor and quick and easy to make, I personally like to savor mine like an oatmeal with berries and maple syrup for my breakfast.
Considered as a Superfood, with at least four times as much fiber as other comparable grains, a low glycemic index, and packed high in protein, it’s no wonder freekeh is having it’s moment on the plates of the most fashionable hotspots in town.
Try it at ‘Feed, Body and Soul’, the newest trendy table on Abbot Kinney, in Venice, CA where the young and beautiful savor it’s robust and smoky flavor, from their Farmer’s Market Grain Bowls.
I ordered, ‘Green freekah, spelt, garbanzo bean, spinach and chia seed, with artichoke, spring leek, broccolini, English pea, seared tofu and Basil tofu sauce.’
Don’t live in Venice? Try renowned Middle Eastern chef, Otttolenghi’s version of
Braised artichokes with Freekeh grains and herbs
- 4 large globe artichokes (2.5kg gross)
- Juice of 3 medium lemons (120ml)
- 2 large sprigs of thyme
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 10 black peppercorns
- 60ml olive oil
- ½ a lemon, thinly sliced (40g)
- 200g green peas, fresh or frozen
- 100g freekeh, rinsed
- 15g mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 10g dill, roughly chopped
- 15g parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp pink peppercorns
- 10g purple basil, leaves picked
- Salt and black pepper
To clean the artichokes, cut off most of the stalk and start removing the tough outer leaves by hand. Once you reach the softer leaves, take a sharp serrated knife and trim off 2–3 centimetres from the top. Cut the artichoke in half lengthways so you can reach the heart and scrape it clean with a small knife. Rub the clean heart with a teaspoon of lemon juice to stop it discolouring. Cut each artichoke half into slices, 5mm thick. Place in cold water and stir in half the remaining lemon juice, about 50ml.
Drain the artichokes and place in a sauté pan. Add the remaining lemon juice, thyme, garlic, black peppercorns, olive oil, lemon slices, 4 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt. Cook on the stove on a medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes. By this time the artichokes should be soft and the sauce a thick consistency.
Fill a medium saucepan with plenty of cold water and bring to the boil. Add the peas and blanch for 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to immediately plunge them into cold water, then drain and leave to dry. Add the freekeh into the same pan and simmer gently until al dente, about 20 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water and leave to dry.
Place the artichoke and their juices in a large mixing bowl. Add the peas, freekeh, herbs, ½ a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper and toss gently. Taste to see if more salt is needed and sprinkle with the pink peppercorns. Plate and finish with the purple basil.
Freekeh Available at Wholefoods, Trader Joes, and Speciality Food Markets.