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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To serve: mix the rice and freekeh and lamb in a large bowl. Serve and garnish with toasted nuts.
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