I recently had the opportunity to attend a wonderful seminar hosted by the Turkish Cultural Foundation's YESAM Culinary Arts Center. The speaker was Tuba Şatana, photographer, food story-teller, and creator of the website Istanbul Food. During her presentation, she offered up a number of her favorite places to get food in various neighborhoods in Istanbul. When discussing a favorite market in Kadıköy, she highlighted the "freekeh" (called "firik" in Turkish) they sell, and we were lucky enough to get to taste that freekeh after the presentation was over. I enjoyed it so much that I went directly to Migros to buy some and make it myself!
Freekeh is a grain popular in Middle Eastern cuisines. To make freekeh, wheat is picked while it is still green, and then roasted. The roasting process gives freekeh a distinctly smoky flavor. It has a chewy texture just like bulgur, and can be used in most recipes as a substitute for rice/bulgur; however, the smoky flavor is something to keep in mind if you are planning to use it in a sweet dish.
Freekeh has more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals than most grains. For example, freekeh contains 4x the amount of fiber as brown rice, which makes it great for your digestive tract and very filling. It also contains antioxidants (carotenoids: lutein and zeaxanthin) which promote eye health .
Freekeh is very easy to prepare and uses a ratio of 1:2 (freekeh:water). You may try it plain, or use recipe below for a more flavorful dish.
1 cup freekeh (150 grams)
2 Tbsp butter (28 grams)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (0.5-1 gram)
1/4 tsp allspice (0.5-1 gram)
2 cups chicken stock (or veg stock)
8-10 mint leaves, chopped
5-6 sprigs parsley, chopped
Small handful pine nuts
Drizzle of olive oil (optional)
1 cup plain yogurt (250 grams)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
- Begin by placing the freekeh into a bowl with cold water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Some burnt pieces will likely float to the top.
- Drain well with cold water.
- In a large pot, melt the butter.
- Add the freekeh, cinnamon, and allspice. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and cover with a lid. Cook until all the stock is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare yogurt topping by mixing together yogurt, minced garlic, and lemon juice.
- Remove freekeh from heat and allow to sit for another 10 minutes, covered.
- Next, stir in the fresh herbs (freekeh should be warm, not hot, when you do this).
- Serve freekeh in a shallow bowl with a dollop of yogurt sauce and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. The freekeh pilaf should be quite moist from the butter, but you may also add a drizzle of olive oil if you like.