Get your freekeh on

7 August, 2020

What the freaking heck is freekeh?

Over the past few years, Middle Eastern food has exploded in popularity in home kitchens, in no small part down to the popularity of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. This duo behind the London café chain, Ottolenghi, have also published a growing collection of cookbooks, both together and as individual writers, including:

  • Ottolenghi
  • Plenty
  • Plenty More
  • Jerusalem
  • Falastin

And one of the ingredients you might have seen in those books and scratched your head at is freekeh. Freekeh is essentially green wheat that’s then roasted, usually over an open fire. The straw and chaff are then rubbed off, with the name “freekeh” derived from the Arabic word “to rub.” The roasting process means freekeh has a smoky and nutty flavour that pairs well in a range of savoury and sweet dishes. It’s sometimes called ‘greenwheat’ and is available both as a wholegrain and cracked grain.

Freekeh is popular in countries like Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Egypt and Syria. Pronounced free-kah, it’s an ancient grain with a long history that’s now growing in popularity in Australia. That’s in no small part down to local producer, Greenwheat Freekeh, based in South Australia.

Nutritionally, it’s high in fibre and protein, as well as being a source of calcium, potassium, iron and zinc. However, because it is made from wheat, freekeh is not suitable for people who need to follow a gluten-free diet.

How to use freekeh?

Freekeh is a versatile grain, that can often be used in place of other grains like bulgur wheat, rice, farro or quinoa. Here’s just come ideas on how you can use it:

  • Salads, for example combined with chickpeas and herbs
  • Create substantial and satisfying soups like spicy freekeh soup with meatballs from the book Jerusalem
  • Use it to stuff vegetables – there’s a recipe for stuffed turnips with turkey, freekeh and spicy tamarind sauce in Falastin
  • Use it as an amazing base for a pilaf like this vegetarian idea from BBC Good Food
  • Eat it at breakfast as a hot cereal
  • Add cooked and cooled freekeh to your smoothies for added bulk and fibre
  • Mix cooked and cooled freekeh with fruit and yoghurt for a delicious parfait for breakfast, after school snack or even dessert.

Like other grains such as quinoa and rice, freekeh doesn’t take much effort to cook. It just needs to be combined with water, brought to a boil and then covered and simmered. Cooking time depends on whether you’re using the whole or cracked version, so follow the instructions on the pack and feel free to adjust cooking times to get the texture you prefer for your dish.

So, next time you see freekeh on the shelf (you can grab a pack at Woolies), why not give it a go and let us know what delicious meals you create!