Before Lebanese folks were introduced to rice and adopted it wholeheartedly, roasted green wheat or freekeh was the main staple. It is basically wheat harvested while still green and smoked in the fields. The farmers would then crack it (or keep it whole) and store it to eat throughout the year. It is available at middle-eastern stores under the name freekeh or frikeh, either in boxes or bags or in bulk. It is extremely nutritious. If you thought brown rice was the most nutritious, think again! Freekeh ( pronounced free-ka) has 4 times more iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, than brown rice!! When you cook it, its smoky flavor fills the kitchen and when you eat it you feel closer to the earth!
Freekeh can be used in so many ways: as a side dish, like rice; in a pilaf, with meat or veggies; in salads or soups. I found an Australian company that is planning to market bars similar to oatmeal bars using freekeh instead..
INGREDIENTS: Quantity will yield 4 generous servings.
- 1 3-pound chicken ( I used 2 cornish hens)
- 1 cup of freekeh
- 12 small onions
- 1 cup of chicken broth ( can substitute a chicken cube)
- Spices consisting of : 1 cinnamon stick, a few sprigs of parsley, a carrot, a rib of celery ( for the chicken broth), 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ground allspice, salt ( to taste) and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- Clean the freekeh by placing it in a sieve and running cold water on it and watching for stones or debris ( if you buy it in bulk)
- Clean the chicken by rubbing a cut lemon all over it (optional) or running cold water on it and drying it with a paper towel. Sprinkle all the spices on it and set aside.
- Peel the onions.
- Heat the olive oil and brown the chicken all over. Set it aside.
- Brown the onions in the oil or some additional oil. Set aside.
- Place the chickens in a large pot and add the broth (or water and a cube) to make the broth needed to cook the freekeh in and finish cooking the chicken. About 1 1/2 quarts of liquid should be sufficient. Add the cinnamon stick, sprigs of parsley, carrot, bay leaf, etc. Cover the pot and let it come to a boil.
- Lower the heat and let it simmer gently for 30 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked through.
- In the skillet ( in which you have previously browned the onions) place the freekeh and stir-fry gently until all the grains are coated in oil. At this point, use a ladle and pour 3 cups of the chicken broth on the freekeh and cover the skillet. Let it simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed. The freekeh needs to be moist and tender, if it is not, add more broth and cook a bit longer.
- When it is ready, serve with the chicken and onions on a large serving platter. The extra broth can be either serve on the side (make a sauce with a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch) or frozen for a soup at a later date.
- Present plain yoghurt at the table with it if you wish. Sahteyn!