Our ancestors knew good food better than we do!
Freekeh is a cereal food made out of unripened green wheat that is roasted whole throughout its production process. This continuous roasting burns the outer layer covering the wheat, which in turn smokes the wheat giving it its signature smoky flavour. It is therefore safe to say that Freekeh is Smoked Green Wheat.
There are 2 types of freekeh
- The hulled grain, which is left whole (unground) and is used like you would rice.
- The half-ground, which produces a finer grain and is used for making freekeh soup.
Freekeh is mainly a carbohydrate, but it contains a lot of fiber too, which equalises the carbs, making it a healthier type of carbs to consume. It can substitute rice in many preparations, providing a healthy and wholesome option.
Freekeh is popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, especially that of the levant; and is very much so particularly in Palestinian cooking. Since ancient times freekeh had been the grain of choice in the Palestinian kitchen, so most of the dishes prepared today with rice, were previously prepared using freekeh instead (rice is a relatively new addition to Palestinian cooking). Freekeh can be prepared as a rice pilaf and served as such (the very traditional way). In old Palestinian cuisine, you would see many recipes that would grind freekeh and use the ground flour in thickening concoctions as you would flour these days. The finer grain of freekeh (1/2 ground) will be used in making soups and savoury puddings. These finer products were also used in kubbeh making and once cooked will be incorporated into upside downs, and with salads when utilising leftovers!
What we are rediscovering today and focusing on as healthy eating, and super grains/foods have been long utilised by our ancestors who clearly knew good food better than we do. Our ancestors will have always chosen whole grains and green products. Of course they will have never sprayed their foods with chemicals, nor will they have genetically modified them… a reason why more and more people today have grown wheat intolerant!
Our ancestors in that regards, ate, knew and cultivated much healthier, better and more wholesome foods than we do today. Perhaps our knowledge today of these ill practices and their effects on our health and earth, should humble us back into adopting healthier practices… equipped with the knowledge we have today, just think what we can achieve!
Once you cook the freekeh as in the recipe below, it offers you such a versatile ingredient that you can use almost everywhere! You can serve it as is, next to a roasted chicken (try my family favourite roasted chicken recipe on this link) if you do that then you can use the roasting juices in making the freekeh pilaf. Making and serving freekeh this way is especially popular for big events as it is customary to be offered on occasions like Weddings, Funerals, Eid gatherings, graduation celebrations, new baby…etc. Delicious and very convenient as one will be expected to feed many people. Of course it won’t be served on its own, but with a side of roasted meats (lamb or chicken), a side of Allayet Bandora (recipe on this link) or Mloukhieh (recipe on this link) are very popular here too. Otherwise it can also be served alongside a stew of tomatoes (recipe in my book Plated Heirlooms), which is also classic. The classic Palestinian cuisine also uses cooked freekeh to stuff birds, whole lamb, or vegetables… all of which is explained in depth in my book Plated Heirlooms.
For a more modern application, and also to use any leftover cooked freekeh, you can also use this in making a variety of salads (tabbouleh, simple freekeh salad with mixed vegetables (see mine in the pictures above), or even in making a super foods salad including freekeh as in two of the pictures above (will post some recipe for you at a later stage)….
Where to buy Freekeh
You can buy freekeh from most specialised Middle Eastern stores, or some specialty herb and spice markets. It is now more available around the world than it was back in the day, so it’s sometimes found in supermarkets. If you live in Dubai, I always find it in Lifco on Shaik Zayed Road.
Since this recipe is one of the +280 recipes in my book Plated Heirlooms, I have included for you a video from the first book signing I had at Kinokuniya, The Dubai Mall. Where I introduced Plated Heirlooms to readers for the first time. In it I talk about what is in the book and what other than just the recipes I decided to include in this book about Classic Palestinian Cuisine. Take a look and get to know my Plated Heirlooms a bit closer.
If you have not yet bought your copy, I really don’t know why not! It is a beautiful book that is about food and life telling the story of the formation of a cuisine. Universal and widely applicable, you really will love it. You can purchase a copy from the link at the end of this page.
Go for it, I personally guarantee you will love it!