Freekeh with caramelised onions

Freekeh is cracked wheat that has been roasted and rubbed for a smoky, nutty flavour. It’s very common in Middle-Eastern dishes and makes a delicious and interesting alternative to bulgur wheat, couscous or rice. I used to only be able to find it in health stores and Asian grocery shops but it’s quite mainstream now as you can buy it in Waitrose! I used to make this dish with basmati rice but try this recipe and you’ll find yourself making it again and again. The key to the base is vegetable stock, cumin and lots of fried onions but I do vary it quite a lot; sometimes I add chickpeas, or brown lentils or even frozen peas if you want to ring the changes. It can be a meal in itself (perfect for vegetarians and vegans) or I serve it with slow roasted shoulder of lamb and sautéed courgettes.

Freekeh pilaf

Serves 4 – 6

  • 200g freekeh
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsps light olive oil
  • 2 large onions – 1 peeled and sliced, 1 peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 x 400g can of chickpeas or 2 tbsps of cooked brown lentils
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander or flat leaf parsley
  • Optional: to garnish – 2 fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced, yoghurt

To make…

  • First make the fried onions. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Fry for 10 to 15 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on a plate with a couple of layers of kitchen roll on it to absorb the extra oil.
  • Add a little more oil to the pan, add the cumin seeds until they sizzle and then add the diced onion. Stir and fry for 10 minutes until they are softened. Add the tomato puree and fry it off for another 5 minutes. Add the freekeh grains and chilli. Stir and coat the grains with the onion mixture.
  • Add the hot stock and a generous teaspoon of black pepper and salt. Stir. Add the chickpeas or lentils. Stir and mix again. Cover the pan with a tight lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes without disturbing the contents and then remove from the heat. Set it aside for 5 minutes – the grains should be plumped up having completely absorbed all the stock.
  • To serve, stir through the fried onions, the coriander or parsley and top with the sliced tomatoes.

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About Janet Davies @pigeoncottage

Food lover, author, cook!
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