What Is Freekeh?
Freekeh & Its Brief History
Broadly labeled as the ‘new quinoa,’ Freekeh (mainly pronounced as Freekah) falls among the most ancient variety of whole-grain wheat. Prepared from green durum wheat, Freekeh is widely popular among the Eastern Mediterranean regions like Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, as well as Jordan and is originated from the North African and Levantine cuisines. It has been very recently introduced to the western regions and has received a lot of attention due to its versatility.
Did you know that this roasted green wheat is actually descended from an Arabic word and that it also has an Arabic meaning to its name? – The definition of Freekeh lies in the term ‘al-freek’ that denotes to ‘what is rubbed.’ The meaning has to do with the entire process of threshing and rubbing the wheat while being processed.
Reaped from grains while their seeds are soft and green in color, this wheat is as good as quinoa and holds a lot of nutritional value. It is roasted on an open fire and tastes great due to its smoky and earthy flavor. Roasting Freekeh also gives it a nutty flavor and enables the chaff and straw of the grain to be worn off easily, which leaves you with a chewy grain that has not been meddled with. The flavors and the contents inside the grain remain intact as it is way too wet to be roasted in the fire.
Afterward, the wheat is dried underneath the sun and winnowed to obtain an even color, flavor and quality. And lastly, they are split in half to produce tiny bits which is quite similar to the green bulgur which is often used in a lot of recipes.
Cracked or Whole Grain
There are two kinds of Freekah available in the market for cooking:
- Whole Grain
When it comes to their nutritional content, you cannot really differentiate them since they are pretty much the same. You can choose whichever one your recipe demands or the one that you prefer eating the most. The only difference that you may find is with their sizes.
However, cracked Freekeh requires lesser time to cook than the whole grain ones. You will find some recipes below to have a better insight into cooking them. If you have never tried either of these before, you can try cracked Freekeh with quinoa or whole Freekeh with bulgur wheat.
As mentioned above, Freekeh contains a lot of alimentary value and can be held as a lot healthier than quinoa or any other healthy gluten-free alternatives that are available in the market. It is full of high protein and fiber which is extremely healthy for people who are conscious of their regular diet. Experts believe this richness in nutrition has everything to do with harvesting the grains while they are still green and young. Not to mention, it also has a very low-fat content which makes it perfect for your heavy meals.
Due to being low-glycemic, Freekah comprises of antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin which is great for preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer or type 2 diabetes. It is also good for your muscles and bones since it contains nutrients like iron and zinc.
Whole grains can be stored for years in your pantry if used and kept properly. They have a really long shelf life if you keep them in air-tight containers. You should store the containers in places where moisture, heat or light can’t affect the grains. Otherwise, they will last in your pantry for a very long time.
However, cracked grains will be best stored if kept in the freezer or refrigerator in air-tight containers. Cooked Freekeh can also be stored in the freezer for 3-4 days without going bad. Do not forget to store them in an air-tight container just like the uncooked versions of Freekeh.
How to Cook Freekeh
You can find two kinds of Freekeh at the grocery store – 1) Cracked Freekeh 2) Whole Grain Freekeh
Now, both of these are pretty easy to cook if you are planning on making your regular plain rice. The only difference which stands out among these two is that the whole grain rice takes about 45 minutes to cook while the cracked Freekeh takes around 15 minutes to cook. All you need is a rice cooker or a saucepan and pour in some water and the Freekeh. Sprinkle a tweak of salt in it and you are good to go!
The next step is to wait while the rice cooks on its own by absorbing all the water that you poured in the vessel. Make sure that all the water has dried off before you take it off the stove. You can also use a spatula to stir the contents from time to time while making cracked Freekeh.
However, if you are a pro at making plain white rice with Freekeh, you can surely check out the Greek Freekeh salad recipe below!
Greek Freekeh Salad
Ingredients for the Freekeh Salad:
- Cracked Freekeh (1 cup)
- Red Bell pepper (1)
- Water (2.5 cups)
- English Cucumber ( ½)
- Crumbled Feta Cheese ( ¼ – ½ cup)
- Red Onion (diced, ¼ cup)
- Parsley (fresh, chopped, ¼ cup)
- Tomatoes (Optional)
- Black Olives (optional)
You can also add any other vegetable you feel like to enhance the flavor of the dish. Just go with whatever goes with the flavors you are planning to use.
Ingredients for the Greek dressing:
- Dijon Mustard ( 1 tablespoon)
- Salt ( 1/8 teaspoon)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil ( ¼ cup)
- Garlic Powder ( ½ teaspoon)
- Black Pepper (Optional)
- Dried Basil ( ¼ teaspoon)
- Red Wine Vinegar ( 2 tablespoons)
- Dried Oregano ( ¼ teaspoon)
- Dried Parsley (fresh, 1 teaspoon)
- Take a saucepan and put it on the stove.
- Turn on the heat and put it to its medium-high setting.
- Pour in the Freekeh and use a spatula to keep stirring it until you obtain a smoky and nutty aroma. This should take about 3 minutes or so.
- The next step is to pour 2 cups of water into the saucepan. Wait till it starts boiling.
- Now take a lid and put it over the saucepan. You need to wait for about 20-25 minutes to let the rice cook properly. It will have absorbed all the water from the vessel by then.
- After waiting for 20-25 minutes, take off the lid and let the rest of the water to be soaked up. This should only take around 5 minutes or so.
- Once all the water has been soaked up, remove the saucepan from the stove and start making your dressing and chop up the vegetables.
- For the dressing, you will need to whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl.
- The last step is to take out the bowl that you will be serving your salad in. Start with the Freekeh and then add all the vegetables and crumbled feta into it.
- Drizzle the dressing at the last and give it a couple of tosses. This should mix up all the components of the bowl and you will be able to serve it up right away!
Note: You can also store the salad in the refrigerator for 4-5 days if you cannot finish it up in one serving.
Now that you have a better idea about what Freekeh is, you can definitely try cooking it at home from time to time. Since it is nutritional, it will be great for your health and well-being. However, if you are a beginner, try out the basic recipe first to see if you like the general taste of it. You can try out more complex recipes once you get the hang of it. Make sure to give the Greek Freekeh Salad recipe a try if you are a fan of salads.
Nonetheless, if you are still having second thoughts about giving this new ancient whole grain wheat a try, feel free to gather some more information about it! Browsing the internet or going through recipe books may help you in this case. However, once you are done with all the research, don’t forget to give Jamie Oliver’s Freekeh recipes a try!
- Freekeh – BBC Good Food