Green wheat and rice pilaf (Tatbeekah)

One of Lebanon’s prominent chefs, cookbook author and cooking instructor is Marlene Mattar and her latest cookbook features the cuisine of Aleppo in Syria (Maedat Marlene min Halab). This dish caught my eye:  It is a pilaf of white rice with roasted green wheat aka freekeh as well as ground lamb, onion and nuts. 

We did not grow up eating freekeh yet this is probably more ancient than bulgur; it is simply young wheat that is harvested early and smoked; it took me a couple of times to get used to the assertive taste of freekeh but now I love it. In addition, it is purported to be extremely nutritious. 

According to chef Matter, this pilaf is a very old recipe and was traditionally served with the white rice covering the freekeh. As one bites into the rice, the freekeh appears.

This dish is simple to prepare and I decided to serve it as a pilaf to make it even easier. This presentation is my own and the recipe modified from the original.

INGREDIENTS: 6 servings

  •  1 cup of freekeh or roasted green wheat
  • 1 cup of Basmati rice
  • 1/2 lb of ground lamb
  • 2 onions and 2 cloves of garlic
  • Spices: salt, black pepper, 1 tsp seven-spice or 1 /2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/4 tsp cloves.
  • 1/2 cup of almonds and pine nuts
  • oil or butter, as needed
  1. Soak rice in tap water for 30 minutes with a dash of salt. Rinse freekeh under running tap water (in a large sieve) and run fingers through it to watch for debris, black stones or any wheat particles to discard. Heat 3 tbps of oil in a saucepan and drop the freekeh in and pan-fry initially for 2 minutes to coat in oil. Add 2 cups of water, a dash of salt and drop in one onion cut in quarters and 2 cloves of garlic (peeled). Cover the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes or longer until the freekeh is tender but still chewy.
  2. Meanwhile, drain the rice; place the rice in another saucepan add 2 cups of water and 3 tbsp of oil or clarified butter. Add a dash of salt. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer the rice for 20 minutes or until cooked.
  3. In a skillet, brown the ground lamb with the chopped onion and the spices; add 2 tablespoons of water to the lamb, cover the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes to cook the meat completely; drain the extra fat and set aside. Toast the nuts in the oven for 12 minutes  until golden.
  4. To serve: mix the rice and freekeh and lamb in a large bowl. Serve and garnish with toasted nuts.
NOTE: Freekeh is sold in all Middle-Eastern stores and online.
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  1. Posted December 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    A glorious pilaf! So healthy, tasty and mouthwatering. I could eat tons of that kind of food…



  2. Posted December 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful wheat! Such a wonderful bowl of flavor, Joumana.

  3. Posted December 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful, crunchy, complete pilaf!

  4. Posted December 6, 2012 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    This dish looks so elegant!

  5. Posted December 6, 2012 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Mmmm, never had frekkeh before, but heard of it and now must look for it. Love the ground lamb addition, too.

  6. Posted December 6, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    En Algérie, on utilise le freek pour faire de la soupe.
    Je ne sais pas si c’est le même qu’au Moyen-Orient. Il va falloir que je compare les 2.
    Un pilaf comme le tien, c’est un moment de bonheur, niveau saveurs.
    A bientôt

  7. Joumana
    Posted December 6, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    @Nadji: Au Liban aussi! Je ne savais pas que le freek est aussi présent dans la cuisine Algérienne! wow!

  8. Posted December 7, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I always walk away feeling like I’ve learned something new whenever I come through here. Thank you for another delicious and imaginative rice dish!

  9. Posted December 12, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    HA…I never knew freekeh was green wheat, I love learning new things here.

  10. Alice
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    This was delicious!!

  11. Gabi
    Posted April 25, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Hi Joumana, I’ld like to try this in the layer version. Any specific order requested? I was thinking about meat at the bottom, freekeh in the middle and rice on top. Btw, I showed your blog to the assistant in the palestinian shop where I use to come. It showed he was Lebanese himself and he became extremely happy. Think it made his day.

  12. Joumana
    Posted April 25, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    @Gabi: I think in the original dish the rice covered the freekeh completely which would cause surprise when one would bite into the rice to discover the freekeh hidden inside. also the meat (ground lamb) was on top. feel free to create your own version I like what you are planning to do with it! thanks for the referral, always nice to hear! :)

  13. Gabi
    Posted April 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, I’ve got the idea now. With basmati I should be able to do something like that

  14. amy
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Can I sub ground beef? Love all your recipes. I cook for relatives that are Palestinian Nd fiends from others countries in the region and the rave about the food!

  15. Joumana
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    @amy: of course! `i try to pick recipes with one common denominator: flexibility! :)enjoy and say hi

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