Bath-based Persian food writer and cookery teacher, SIMI REZAI, suggests three ways to serve freekeh, the ancient grain everyone is talking about
Freekeh, for those uninitiated, is under-ripe wheat, which has been picked, set on fire in a controlled fashion so that the husk and straw burns, then rubbed (rub is farik in Arabic) to take off the husk. It is sold whole or cracked and is relatively more nutritious than other grains. It has a low GI index and is high in fibre. So, great news, it is not only tasty but good for you, too.
It has a lovely mellow, smoked flavour and I like it plain boiled. It can be prepared like risotto or biryani (i.e. in flavoured stock and layered with vegetables, herbs, pulses, or anything you like). It can also be added to soups or used as a stuffing. At this time of year, I cook the cracked freekeh, which I simmer in water with a little salt for 20 minutes, then dress it and add whatever we have on the plot. Herbs, fruit, vegetables or edible flowers are my current choices. It’s great for picnics, barbecues and ‘bring and shares’. In a recent demonstration I held in Bath, it was very well received and several salad-dodging chaps were soon Googling where to buy it in their area.
Sounds good, right? Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.
800ml water (you may need more as each freekeh differs in its absorption)
1 tsp salt
– Bring the freekeh to the boil in the seasoned water and leave to simmer for 20 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Drain if necessary.
– Serve as is or dress with a flavoursome oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
1. Summer on a plate
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250g tomatoes, chopped (use a variety of colours and shapes)
250g cucumber, chopped
1/2 bunch of radish, chopped (keep the leaves)
– Dress the cooked and slightly cooled freekeh in the oil, lemon juice and season. When it has cooled completely add the tomatoes, cucumbers and radish. Taste and adjust the dressing and seasoning to your liking.
2. Herby freekeh (sounds like a jazz artist…)
½ garlic clove
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped herbs (I use marjoram and sage)
edible flowers (optional)
– Using a pestle and mortar, grind the garlic with salt, then add the oil, lemon juice and black pepper. Coat the cooked and slightly cooled freekeh in the dressing, then throw in the herbs. This is particularly good with grilled oily fish.
– Tip: if you are adding raw garlic to salads with cooked beans, potatoes or pasta, put the crushed garlic in while these are hot as it cooks a little and mellows the sharp garlic taste.
3. Unctuous freekeh
2 tbsp olive oil
3 red onions, sliced
handful of rehydrated currants/sultanas or raisins
100g cooked green, brown or puy lentils
– Gently fry the red onions in the oil for 40 minutes until caramelised. Mix the cooked freekeh with the dried fruit and lentils, then coat while still hot in the oniony oil.
How do you like to get freekeh? Let us know your recipe ideas in the comments box below.