Get ya freekeh on

[Recipe 1] FREEKEH SALAD with MIXED NUTS and ROASTED TOMATOES
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[Recipe 2] CHICKEN, FREEKEH, SILVERBEET and LEMON SOUP

I freeking love freekeh! Freekeh (pronounced ‘free-ka’) is dried immature durum wheat. As it’s harvested early, while the grains are still soft and green, it contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than geriatric wheat. It’s also Low GI and packed with fibre. I tried it for the first time at my neighbour’s house a while ago – they whipped up Andrew McConnell’s beautiful cracked wheat and freekah salad with barberry dressing, which is on the menu at Cumulus Inc. I loved it; and have been on a freekeh kick ever since.
After a lot of tweaking and testing I’ve created my own freekeh concoction; Freekeh salad with mixed nuts and roasted tomatoes. I’ve brought it along to two BBQs recently – that’s us below, carting it off to a Día de Muertos party last weekend. Those roasted tomatoes go rather nicely with my dress don’t you think?
As this blog is all about creating two meals from one; I prepared a large quantity of the cooked freekeh, onion and garlic mixture and reserved half to use in a pretty damn delicious Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet (Swiss chard) and lemon soup; which we polished off for dinner with crusty bread. The leftover soup was frozen in lunch-sized portions to take to work. I usually make this soup with leftover cooked brown rice but freekeh was a fab substitute, and not as heavy as brown rice. This recipe is a definite keeper.
PS. If you’re scratching your head in puzzlement about the title of this post, here is the musical inspiration. It’s an excellent, slightly mental, track to cook along to.

Day of the Dead 2013Freekeh salad with roasted tomatoesFreekeh salad with mixed nuts[Recipe 1] Freekeh salad with mixed nuts and roasted tomatoes

Ingredients (serves 8 for 2 meals; ie salad for 8 + 8 serves of soup):
4 large Roma tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil for brushing
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
2 large red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g (1 lb) cracked greenwheat freekeh, soaked in 2½ cups water for 15 minutes, drained (note: you’ll be reserving half the cooked freekeh/onion/garlic for the soup)
4 cups water, extra
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup (70g) slivered almonds, toasted
½ cup (70g) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
50g (1¾ oz) baby spinach leaves
½ – 1 cup each roughly chopped mint and parsley
Lemon pomegranate dressing:
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, warmed (replace with honey if unavailable)

Preheat oven to 160°C (320ºF).
Place halved tomatoes, cut side up, onto a tray lined with baking paper. Brush each with olive oil, and roast for 1 hour. Carefully turn each tomato over and roast for a further 20–25 minutes to allow the juices to drain off. Cut each in half and set aside to drain on kitchen paper until required.
Heat extra oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, until just fragrant (onion needn’t be completely soft).
Add prepared cracked freekeh and mix well. Add water. Bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
Spread out on a tray (or 2 large plates) to dry for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Combine lemon juice, zest, olive oil and pomegranate molasses in a screw-top jar and shake well until combined. Set aside.

♦ Reserve half of the cooked freekeh and onion mixture (4 heaped cups) for the Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet and lemon soup.
Place remaining cooked freekeh and onion mixture in a large bowl. Add prepared dressing and mix well. Add salt, pepper, nuts, spinach and chopped herbs and toss lightly to combine. Arrange roasted tomatoes on top and serve.

  • This recipe uses cracked grain freekeh. If you’re using whole-grain freekeh, simmering time should be increased according to the packet. 
  • Freekeh and pomegranate molasses are available from specialty and health food stores (including my favourite locals, The Essential Ingredient and Aunt Maggies). You can also check this page for Australian and International stockists of freekeh; or buy it online at the Greenwheat Freekeh Australian online shop or Freekehlicious USA. Freekeh is also widely stocked at Middle Eastern Grocers.
  • This salad (and the planned-overs) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Chicken soup with freekeh and lemon

[Recipe 2] Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet and lemon soup

Ingredients (serves 8):
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken legs, skin on
2 large carrots, peeled, finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves

♦ 4 heaped cups reserved cooked freekeh and onion mixture
8 cups chicken stock, home-made or store-bought (plus extra if required*)
1 bunch silverbeet (Swiss chard), 8–10 stalks, green part only, finely shredded
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Lemon wedges to serve

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and fry chicken legs over a medium heat, turning, for 10 minutes, until browned.
Add carrot, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, reserved cooked freekeh and onion mixture and stock. Mix well.
*Note: we like our soup thick. Feel free to add more stock as required.
Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer gently, covered, for 40 minutes.
Remove and discard bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Add silverbeet and simmer, covered, for a further 20 minutes.
Using tongs, place chicken legs on a board. With two forks shred the meat from the bones. Discard bones and skin. Return shredded meat to the soup.
Add lemon juice and season to taste (if using store-bought stock, the soup may be salty enough).
Serve, with lemon wedges for squeezing.

  • Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet and lemon soup can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Fussy kid tip: If lemon and silverbeet are likely to give your child the heebie-jeebies, stir a couple of tablespoons of cooked corn kernels, or even creamed corn, into their soup portion. My 6-year old laps it up with either of these additions.