What is freekeh?
Freekeh (pronounced free-ka or free-keh) is one of the ancient grains popular in the Levant and in North east Africa.
Simply put, Freekeh is roasted green wheat. The grains are harvested while still soft, young and green, then parched, roasted, rubbed to get rid of burnt husks then the grains are dried.
The name Freekeh is actually Arabic for (that which is rubbed)
How does freekeh compare to other grains?
Freekeh has at least four times as much fibre as some other comparable grains, and consists mostly of insoluble fibre. It also has a low glycemic index.
It is also higher in protein compared to couscous and appreciably higher compared to white rice. It compares well to other healthy grains such as quinoa and farro.
A friend of mine reached out asking for this creamy freekeh recipe that her husband tried and loved in a trip to Jordan (they live in the united states). These kinds of fusion recipes are quite popular in fancy restaurants here in Amman. This one in particular is either called Freekoto (a play on freekeh and risotto) or freekeh bil fakhara which means freekeh cooked in a clay pot because restaurants often serve this in clay pots for that traditional Levantine touch.
Though I am not usually one for fancy restaurants’ twists on traditional ingredients or recipes. I have to say that this particular twist actually works beautifully. It is creamy without being overly rich, the freekeh adds texture and a nutty earthiness that balances the cream well. The mushrooms and chicken add layers of flavor. Add a few springs of basil for decoration, a hint of green and a dose of freshness and you are really in for a treat
Creamy freekeh with mushrooms and chicken
2 to 3 table spoons olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
500 g skinless boneless chicken cut into cubes
fresh button mushrooms chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon all spice
3 cups coarse freekeh
5 cups water (or chicken stock)
500 ml cooking cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1.Place the freekeh in a bowl, wash it 2 to 3 times till the water runs clear.Refill the bowl and set the freekeh to soak for 15 min
2.In a pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and onions and stir till for 3 to 5 min
3.Add the mushrooms. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes
4.Add the chicken and cook till golden
5.Drain the freekeh and add it to the pot with the salt, cardamom and all spice.
6.Add the water, lower the heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes or until the freekeh absorbs the water and is cooked through
(If you find that the freekeh is still under cooked, add an additional cup of water and cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes)
7.Add the cheese and cream, stir to combine, cook for 3 to 5 minutes and then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Set aside for 15 minutes.
If you wish to serve this in a clay pot, after adding the cream and cheese to the cooked freekeh, transfer everything to a clay pot and place in the oven at 180 C for 20 minutes
You can serve this as an appetizer if you omit the chicken. You can also serve the chicken grilled on the side as opposed to cooked with the freekeh
Should I soak the freekeh?
Yes, soaking will help to shorten the cooking time. You can cook it without soaking but it will require longer time to cook through