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What is freekeh and how do you pronounce it?

We explain what on earth 'freekeh' is, what it tastes like, the difference between 'whole' and 'cracked' freekeh, and how to use it in a simple, satisfying winter salad.

Freekeh (pronounced ‘free-kah’) is a green-ish cereal made from wheat. The grain is harvested early, before it has fully ripened, and the chaff and skin are burned off, giving the flavour a smoky edge. The grain is then sold whole or cracked – the latter looks like greenish bulgar wheat.

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Freekeh has a slightly chewy texture and an earthy, smoky flavour that goes well with Middle Eastern foods. It has lots of fibre, plenty of protein (11g per 100g) and a low Gi index, which makes it a useful ingredient for eating well. 

Cook whole grains for pilafs and salads, and use cracked grains to thicken soup or use in stuffings. Cook it from raw for 20-30 minutes, or, to speed things up, soak it in cold water overnight and you’ll be bale to cook it very quickly the next day. You can buy it easily: just look in health food shops, supermarkets or online from ottolenghi.co.uk. Simple really! Give it a go in one of our recipes…


Freekeh and artichoke salad with golden onions, sultanas and herb labneh

40 minutes + straining, serves 6, easy

freekeh 200g

large sultanas (we used Waitrose Orange River Sultanas) 50g

onions 2 large, halved and sliced

olive oil

sherry vinegar 3 tbsp

caster sugar 1 tsp

cumin seeds 2 tsp, toasted

good quality artichokes hearts in olive oil 280g jar, drained

dill ½ a small bunch, chopped

herb labneh

full-fat Greek yoghurt 200g

dill finely chopped to make 2 tbsp

parsley finely chopped to make 2 tbsp

step 1

To make the labneh, stir a good pinch of salt into the yoghurt then tip into sieve lined with a muslin or clean J-cloth. Put the sieve over a bowl, then cover with clingfilm and chill overnight. Next day, tip the contents of the sieve into a dish and make a few swirls on the surface. Mix the herbs with some olive oil and pour over.

step 2

Cook the freekeh in boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the sultanas in a bowl and pour boiling water over to cover.

step 3

Cook the onions in olive oil in a large frying pan until really caramelised and golden. (This can take 20-30 minutes, so be patient.) Drain the sultanas. Take a third of the onion out of the frying pan, then add the vinegar, sugar, cumin, drained sultanas and another 2 tbsp olive oil to the pan. Stir thoroughly, then take off the heat and season.

step 4

Drain the freekeh well, then tip into a bowl. Add the onion and sultana mix and all the liquid from the pan. Toss everything together. Pile the freekeh onto a serving plate. Add the artichokes and dill, then toss gently through the freekeh. Dollop over teaspoonfuls of the labneh, then scatter over the reserved onions and a few more herbs, if you like.

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per serving 288 kcals, fat 11g, saturates 3.2g, carbs 37.2g, fibre 3.8g, protein 8g, salt 1.1g