super freekeh

freekeh, almond & baby spinach salad

I don’t know about you, but I sure am a sucker for new things in general and new foods in particular. I can’t help myself. When I come across something that I haven’t tried before in my favourite deli or veggie shop or even the supermarket, I feel compelled to pick up the item in question and add it to my shopping, regardless of whether I know what to do with it or not.

A few months ago, I was innocently shopping at my local supermarket when my eye caught an interesting looking pack on an end of aisle display. Having read about the ‘new yet ancient’ grain, Freekeh (pronounced Free-ka) in the paper and how an enterprising Australian outfit had figured out a method to produce it on a large scale, what could I do but adopt a pack of my own.

Apparently Freekeh is actually a wheat based product where the young green wheat is harvested before it is ripe and then the heads are burned in a controlled method so that the husks etc get charred but the berries themselves remain unburned but take on the toasted flavours. According to the marketers, this has the benefit of retaining more protein, fibre and vitamins than traditionally processed wheat and the added bonus of keeping more of the carbohydrates in the ‘resistant starch’ form which isn’t able to be digested in our bodies and so acts like a fibre rather than a carbohydrate.

With all this healthy talk, I was glad that the Freekeh had followed me home, but it was to be a few months before I actually got around to cooking with it. The pack contained recipes which all began with boiling the grain in water in a similar manner to rice, but to be honest, they weren’t exactly inspiring.

So I mulled over it for a while longer until the solution came to me. Why not treat it a bit like burghul or couscous and soften it in stock and then use as a nutty textural interest point in a salad? With a little bit of spicing as a salute to the grains middle eastern heritage, a combo of wilted and whole baby spinach leaves and a crunchy topping of roast almonds. A salad that is fresh yet hearty, the perfect thing for this changeable Sydney weather especially when teamed with the roasting juices of a super moist roast chook like the one from last week… all good things.

freekeh, almond & baby spinach salad
serves 4 as a side dish

If you aren’t lucky enough to have access to Freekeh in your area, never fear, just substitute in burghul or cracked wheat or even good old couscous.

If you want this salad to have a lighter, more summery feel. Halve the amount of baby spinach and skip the wilting step.

Baharat is a Lebanese spice blend that is available from Herbie’s Spices or you could have a go at making your own using the recipe HERE. Or keep it simple as I’ve suggested below and substitute in ground cumin.

100g freekeh
1/2C chicken or vegetable stock
1t baharat or ground cumin
2 bags baby spinach
4T extra virgin olive oil
3T red wine vinegar
large handful almonds, roasted & roughly chopped

Place freekah and stock in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the spices, cover and allow to stand for at least 10mins.

When you’re ready to serve, return the saucepan to the heat and add 2/3 of the baby spinach and cook over a medium heat stirring constantly until spinach has just wilted. Remove from the heat and stir through olive oil and vinegar. Season and transfer to a large salad bowl. Toss through remaining spinach and sprinkle over almonds.

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  • What was the verdict Clance? It looks nice, but what in the heck did it taste nice, and will you eat it again? Just out of interest, how much did the box of freaky stuff cost?

  • I’ve looked at freekah a couple of times, but it’s always been when I’ve had a full trolley / been running late / or just knew I wasn’t in the mood to try out something new. So how lovely to hear how you’ve used in Jules. Certainly sounds like a lovely dish.

  • glad you asked em.

    really loved it. so much so that I made it twice in the one week, something that doesn’t happen very often in my kitchen.

    flavour was grainy and nutty and toasty and went well with the spices. my irishman thought it had a ‘healthy’ flavour which may have been more to do with the wilted spinach. cooked this way the texture was slightly chewy and had a reassuring substantial feel to it. a little bit like pearl barley, somthing I really love.

    can’t remember the price but I’d guess it was $3-4 for a 400g pack.

    I’ll definitely be using it again. Let me know if you (or anyone else!) tries it.

  • There’s a couple of great recipes in Maggie Beer’s “Maggie’s Table” too, including a stuffing for baked squid with preserved lemon and olives. mmm

  • Oh, in my father’s hometown in Turkey, Antep, they use “firik” (as we call it) a lot. Either you make a rich pilav with onions and meat or use it to stuff a certain type of zuccini-cucumber type vegetable (acur). How interesting to see it marketed as the next big thing on the other side of the world!

  • Freekah sounds sort of similar to wheatberries–wonder if it’s the same thing?

    The salad looks fabulous—I love bahrat, and it does go really well with crunchy-sweet almonds.

  • I just read about Freekeh and fell on your site. I live in Switzerland. Where are you located? Can I buy some from you? Is it cracked or whole? What is the price per kg? Can u send it to me either France or Switzerland? Thanks,Lisa Woodward

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