This recipe for freekeh served with chilli chickpeas and herbed vegetables makes a really tasty dinner and is surprisingly quick to prepare. Like many great recipes it’s more than the sum of its parts. Three already delicious components come together to make a taste sensation.
What Is Freekeh?
Freekeh, pronounced free-kah, is a type of wholegrain wheat. Or rather it’s wheat that’s harvested whilst it’s young and green. It’s then either roasted or smoked to produce its unique flavour profile. Finally it’s polished to remove the outer husks.
Originally from ancient Egypt, freekeh has been used in Middle Eastern cuisine for a very long time. When cooked and tender, it’s nutty, smoky, chewy and really very tasty.
It’s a particularly nutrient dense grain and compares well with quinoa. It has more dietary fibre and protein than conventional wheat and contains good amounts of B vitamins, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc. Compared to brown rice or quinoa, it contains fewer calories, but double the iron.
According to Healthline, freekeh is a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These are carotenoids which may help to lower the risk of degenerative eye disorders.
You can either buy it as cracked wheat or whole berries. Cracked freekeh takes less time to cook and is generally easier to get hold of. It’s a bit like bulgur wheat, but with smoky notes and a nuttier and chewier profile.
How To Cook Freekeh
Freekeh is a grain and it’s very easy to cook. Treat it like rice and you won’t go far wrong. You can cook it in one of two ways. In either instance it’s best to wash it first as there’s usually a bit of chaff and dust in the mix.
The actual cooking time of cracked freekeh will vary depending on how finely or coarsely cracked it is. It’s therefore best to follow the pack instructions regarding timing.
How To Cook Freekeh: Method One
Boil the freekeh in plenty of water until it’s cooked, then drain through a sieve. It takes about twenty minutes to cook cracked freekeh and about forty five minutes to cook the grains whole.
How To Cook Freekeh: Method Two
Cover the freekeh in two and a half times its volume of water. In other words, one part freekeh and two and a half parts water. For cracked freekeh cook for twenty minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to steam with the lid on for a further ten minutes.
For whole grains, you’ll need to cook them for forty five minutes. Then, as with cracked freekeh, leave to steam with the lid on for a further ten minutes.
This is my favoured method for cooking any grain. I find it produces a fluffier result and wastes less water.
How To Cook Freekeh: Top Tip
Soak the freekeh in water for at least an hour before you cook it. Although if you can leave it longer, so much the better. Soaking softens the grains and reduces cooking time. It also makes it easier to wash.
This is because the grains soak up some of the water and sink to the bottom of the pan. You can then fill the pan with water and drain it off easily without the grains all floating to the top and disappearing over the edge.
You’ll need to reduce the amount of water you cook the grains in as they’ll already have started to swell. Two parts water to one part freekeh should do it.
How To Make Your Own Chilli Oil
If you love chillies, chilli oil is a wonderful thing. Make your own and you can have it as hot or mild as you like.
You can make chilli oil in one of two ways. You can either add a load of dried chilli flakes to a bottle of oil and leave it to infuse for a month, or you can do it the quick and dirty way. Although it’s really handy to have a bottle of chilli oil ready and waiting, it’s actually very easy to do it my way.
Just place a pan over a medium high heat and add a little oil. I used olive oil for this recipe, but you can use whatever oil you like. Rapeseed is a good one and so is sunflower oil.
Chop a chilli as finely as you can and fry in the oil for three minutes or so. You want to flavour the oil, but not burn the chilli. Give it an occasional swirl.
At this point you can add other ingredients or use it to pour over your finished dish. It’s fabulous over eggs. But if you’re a bit worried about coming across bits of fiery chilli, you can sieve them out.
Freekeh With Chilli Chickpeas And Herbed Vegetables
This dish produces a lovely mix of textures and flavours. There’s hot chilli, tangy lemon, nutty and smoky freekeh, caramelised onions and vegetables imbued with fresh herbs.
Although you need three different pans to prepare the meal, much of the cooking can be done at the same time. So although I’ve written the below as steps, you actually need to do some of them simultaneously.
Thus, whilst the freekeh is cooking, you can get on with the vegetables and whilst they’re cooking you can make the chilli chickpeas.
You can use a tin of chickpeas for this recipe, but if you can get organised enough to cook your own from scratch, you’ll reap the rewards. They usually have a better texture and flavour and they’re also a lot cheaper. Having said that, I used a tin in this particular recipe as I didn’t get my act together quickly enough.
1. Soak Freekeh
You don’t have to do this bit, so don’t worry if you forget. But if you soak the freekeh first, it reduces the cooking time. Use the pan you’re going to cook the freekeh in and soak it for at least an hour. I soak mine for two.
I’ve used cracked freekeh for this recipe as it’s generally easier to get hold of. It’s also more familiar. You can use whole berries instead if you have them, but you’ll need to increase the cooking time.
2. Wash Freekeh
There’s usually a bit of chaff and dust to get rid of before you cook your freekah. Drain away any soaking liquid, then cover the freekeh with water. Drain and repeat if necessary.
3. Cook Freekeh
If you’ve soaked the grains first, cover the freekeh with twice its volume of water. Otherwise, cover it with two and half times its volume.
If you’ve soaked it for a long time, use a bit less water as the grains will have already soaked up quite a bit.
Cover the pan with a close fitting lid, bring to the boil then simmer on your cooker’s lowest setting. If soaked, leave for fifteen minutes, then turn the heat off but leave the pan where it is with the lid on . Leave to steam and soak up any remaining water for ten minutes.
4. Fry Onions
Caramelised onions are key to this dish as they provide the sweet notes to counterbalance the sourness from the lemon.
Place a large heavy based frying pan over a medium heat. As soon as it’s hot, add the olive oil, followed by thinly sliced onions. Allow them to fry for three minutes or so whilst you prepare the rest of the veg. Just give an occasional stir.
5. Add Veg
Courgettes and peppers add colour and crunch. They need to be cooked, but still have a certain amount of bite to them. Some pieces will inevitably caramelise and that’s all to the good.
Cut them into medium sized chunks, about 2 ½ centimetres (1 inch). Throw the veg into the pan with the onions and give a good stir.
Fry for about six minutes. You only need to give an occasional stir. Meanwhile you can prepare the herbs and the chilli chickpeas.
6. Add Herbs
The herbs add freshness and flavour and are a key component of this freekeh meal.
Strip both the rosemary and thyme leaves from any woody stems and discard the stems. Then finely chop, along with the garlic.
Scrape these into the veg pan along with a good pinch of salt. Fry for a further two to three minutes or until the veg is just about cooked and the onions are caramelised.
7. Chilli Oil
The chilli oil permeates the chickpeas in a most delightful way. If you like the idea of chilli, but don’t like it too hot, make sure you choose a mild to medium chilli and remove any seeds. Alternatively, just use a small amount.
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium to high heat. When it’s hot, throw in the chilli. Let it sizzle away for a good three minutes, but give the pan an occasional swirl. Make sure it’s not so hot that the chilli burns though.
8. Add Chickpeas
Add the cooked chickpeas and let them warm through and soak up some of the oil, for about three minutes. Again, give the pan an occasional swirl.
Add the soy sauce, stock or yondu, if you can get it. I’ve become a big fan of yondu, which is a mixture of fermented soy and vegetable stock. Let it spit and steam for a few seconds, then turn the heat off. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir.
9. Serve Freekeh
To serve, spoon the freekeh onto plates, top with the veg then scatter the chickpeas over the top. Drizzle over any oil that remains in the pan.
Other Wholegrain Recipes You Might Like
- Barley bowl with spiced aubergine, chickpeas & tomatoes
- Barley lentil dinner with walnut gremolata & roasted tomatoes
- Frumenty: a breakfast wholegrain wheat porridge
- Spiced roasted summer vegetables with millet, peas & lentils
Keep in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make this freekeh with chilli chickpeas and herbed vegetables, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And do please rate the recipe. Have you any top tips? Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.
If you’d like more chickpea recipes, follow the link and you’ll find I have quite a lot of them. All delicious and nutritious, of course.
Freekeh & Chilli Chickpeas. PIN IT.
Freekeh With Chilli Chickpeas: The Recipe
Freekeh With Chilli Chickpeas and Herbed Vegetables
- 120 g cracked freekeh preferably soaked for at least an hour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion peeled & thinly sliced
- 3 small courgettes (or one medium to large) ends trimmed
- 1 large sweet pepper stem and seeds removed
- 1 clove garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary needles removed and finely chopped
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme leaves stripped
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil (I used extra virgin)
- 1 small red chilli – deseeded (I used half of a rocoto)
- 400 g tin chickpeas (or 250g cooked chickpeas) washed and drained
- 1 tsp good quality soy sauce or salty stock (I used yondu)
- ½ lemon – juiced
- Wash the freekeh and drain. Place into a small pan with a tight fitting lid. Cover with 225 ml of water if soaked, or 300ml if unsoaked and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and cook for 15 minutes or 20 minutes if unsoaked.Turn the heat off, but leave the pan in place with the lid on for a further ten minutes. This allows the grain to continue cooking and soak up any residual water. Alternatively, follow the pack instructions.120 g cracked freekeh
- To serve, spoon the freekeh onto plates, top with the veg then scatter the chickpeas over the top. Drizzle over any oil that remains in the pan.
- Meanwhile, place a large frying pan over a medium high heat. Add the oil, followed by the onions. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.1 tbsp olive oil, 1 onion
- Chop the courgettes and peppers into smallish chunks and add to the pan. Fry for about six minutes, stirring occasionally.3 small courgettes, 1 large sweet pepper
- Add the garlic, herbs and salt. Fry for a further three minutes or until the veg is just about cooked but the onions are caramelised.1 clove garlic, 1 sprig fresh rosemary, 8 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 pinch sea salt
- Whilst the veg is cooking get on with making the chickpeas.In a small saucepan, fry the chilli in the oil over a moderate heat for about three minutes. Give the pan an occasional swirl to ensure the flavour is properly distributed.2 tbsp olive oil, 1 small red chilli – deseeded
- Throw in the chickpeas and cook for a further three minutes, giving an ocassional stir.400 g tin chickpeas
- Add the yondu then take off the heat.1 tsp good quality soy sauce or salty stock
- Add the lemon juice and stir.½ lemon – juiced
I’m sharing this recipe for freekeh with chilli chickpeas and herbed vegetables with Melissa Traub for #CookBlogShare.