“Superfood” is a term that is seemingly applied to a different food every week. One after another we’re told that we need to be eating more blueberries, pomegranates, beets, kiwis, acai and a host of others – some eminently obtainable whilst others cost an arm and a leg.
Freekeh or Freekah depending on who is doing the spelling, has been labelled by some as a superfood due to it’s high fibre content and low Glycemic Index or GI – it makes you feel full for longer.
It started to register on my radar several months ago on a blog or two, then in both of the Ottolenghi cookbooks which my beloved so kindly bought for my last birthday and, just like anything else in “Jerusalem”, suddenly it’s all over the place.
There is however a big advantage to having a zeitgeist defining cookbook written around the foods of the city in which you live – pretty much all the ingredients are local. Freekeh is Middle Eastern in origin and therefore when I wandered into my favourite spice and dry goods store (Bashkevits in the covered shuk if you’re interested) and asked whether they might have some, the only question from them was “how much do you need?” followed by some tips on how to cook it (pretty much like rice).
Freekeh checks a number of boxes for me – local, inexpensive and easy to cook with the additional bonus of being super healthy. There are plenty of recipes around for it and it’s very easy to substitute in for other grains.
I picked up some broccoli and a few red peppers, went through the fridge for some more likely looking candidates to be roasted rather than left to wilt – mushrooms, sweet potato and red onion and set to work. The result was attractive, healthy, filling and cost next to nothing.
1 cup Freekeh – if you can’t find it or want to use up store cupboard stuff then rice, orzo or barley will work
2 1/2 cups of water
Veggies: any vegetables which you would serve in a roasted vegetable platter work fine – eggplant / aubergine, courgette / zucchini, cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves. Try to vary the colours. If you’re cooking them together (saves washing up) you need to consider that they should all have similar cooking times in prepping them.
Small head of broccoli divided into florets (might be better to simply blanch instead of roasting but I like them like this too)
1 red onion cut into 8 wedges
2 red peppers cut into strips
1 sweet potato in 1 cm dice
8 – 10 mushrooms (not pictured)
To serve – preserved lemon – not required but, just as rice is a little bland by itself, so is the Freekeh and this peps it up really well (click here for my recipe!)
Parsley – chopped
Toss the vegetables in a little oil and put into a medium oven (about 180c) for approx 45 minutes
Cook the Freekeh exactly as you would do rice – I put a little oil in the pan and toast it for a minute or two before adding water, bringing to a boil – you may wish to add a little salt and any spices that you enjoy – especially if you are leaving out the preserved lemon. Simmer for about 20 minutes. In researching it’s use I noticed a variety of other cooking methods which can be summed up as – if it works for rice, it works for Freekeh.
Once everything is ready stir the preserved lemon into the freekeh and top with the veggies – garnish with a little parsley and some freshly ground black pepper.
The Freekeh has a certain nuttiness to it and a bite to it’s texture which makes it feel substantial – and certainly it’s filling. You can serve this as a main dish or as a side.