Freekeh | Smoked Green Wheat Chicken Soup

Monday, May 15, 2017

MENA Cooking Club is back after a short hiatus of two months. We are resuming with the next in line MENA country after Iraq which is - Jordan. As the title suggests, I am sharing my experience of making Freekeh with Chicken as a soup meal.

Freekeh Chicken Soup | Smoked Green Wheat Chicken Soup


We were provided with these three options and had to make at least one dish.
  • Freekeh Soup
  • Molokhia
  • Jordanian coffee

I chose to make Freekeh Soup because I already have Molokhia recipe on the blog and coffee is not my thing. yes. I am weird. :-) I would have loved to recreate another Molokhia recipe because I love those greens but like mentioned in my that post, F hated it and I never made them again. 

Before diving into Freekeh, let me just give some highlight that caught my attention about Jordanian Cuisine. They are part of the Levantine Cuisine that shares similar traits but with local variations. Being one the of the largest producers of Olive, Jordanian food uses a lot of olive oil. They also have a unique dry yoghurt called Jameed which is used to make Mansaf, their national dish. I am also very intrigued by their Caraway Pudding which is on my must try list. InshaAllah. I read that A Jordanian invitation means that you are expected to bring nothing and eat everything. πŸ˜› I love such invitations.

Freekeh Chicken Soup | Smoked Green Wheat Chicken Soup

The whole grain called Freekeh or Freekah means “to rub” in Arabic. It is been part of the Levant food for centuries and now has joined the world's superfood list along with Quinoa. Freekeh gets its name from the process involved in obtaining it by harvesting the wheat while the grains are still yellow and the seeds are soft. They are then piled, sun-dried and carefully set on fire so that only the straw and chaff burns. The high moisture content of the young seeds prevents them from burning. This roasted and smoked wheat is subjected to separating and sun-drying to make the flavour, texture, and colour uniform. This smacking or beating or rubbing process of the grains gives this superfood its name, Freekeh. 

My first step was to source Freekeh. The google images confirmed that I have seen these in supermarkets here along with other legumes and lentils so sourcing shouldn't have been an issue unless Murphy's law is real. It was. πŸ‘ŠThe day I went to get these, there wasn't a single pack of Freekeh. 😐

I was glad the stock was refilled the following week. Freekeh comes in three sizes - whole, coarse and fine. For the soup, you need the coarse or fine cut Freekeh. 

Both of us took turns to fall sick due to the changing weather and a warm bowl of soup would be really comforting. One of the evenings, I decided to give this soup a try and made a batch for two. I prepared the Chicken stock and then Freekah soup. I think by just smelling the aroma of the chicken stock cured me. A homemade chicken stock cannot match the store bought. 

Freekeh Chicken Soup | Smoked Green Wheat Chicken Soup

I washed the smoked green wheat several times and soaked it for a while. Somewhere in the midst of making the soup, it reminded me of Molokhia day and a sense of doubt that F may not like this was born. My instincts rarely go wrong but I hoped for a miracle. 😐

Dinner time, unlike Molokhia day, I kept hushed about the soup, its taste, aroma etc. It was hard not to talk about the dish but I did not want to feed his expectations. I served with the last few slices of bread I had. We ate quietly and he finished one bowl that I served. Did not go for a second so I knew he was not impressed. But I am glad he finished what was served, unlike Molokhia.

So how does it taste? Freekeh has a strong earthy and nutty flavour. I have not tasted Quinoa but I read that if you like Quinoa then you will like Freekeh too. The texture is chewy like brown rice and keeps you satiated for long as it is loaded with protein and fibre. Unlike most other grains, this can be had for breakfast, lunch or dinner in soup, pilaf or salad form. 

While doing the dishes, I asked him what is that he did not like about the soup. He surprised me by saying "It was good but something very new - is this how it is prepared?" I told him that this is one of the ways to make and a great option to have instead of oats as this is a super-food whole grain. :-) I am going to talk about the grain for a few more days so that the idea settles that this is going to be part of our diet. 😝

Freekeh Chicken Soup | Smoked Green Wheat Chicken Soup

Recipe inspired and loosely adapted from Dish Away and Sawsan's guest post on Manusmenu

Freekeh | Smoked Green Wheat Chicken Soup

Yields: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

For the Chicken Stock 

500 gms chicken on bone (2 thighs, 2 legs) with skin
2" cinnamon stick
1 bay leaves
2 cardamom
2 cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole black pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/2 medium onion, chopped roughly
a small piece galangal
a small piece Sheba or Black stone flower
a small piece loomi or black dried lime
Salt
4 cups of water or more to cover the chicken well above

Freekeh Chicken Soup | Smoked Green Wheat Chicken Soup

I have included a lot of whole spices in my Chicken Stock because I love those flavours. You can skip if you do not have those. There is no hard and fast rule in making the chicken stock. 

You can make a veg version by omitting the Chicken and using lots of veggies and veg stock.

For the Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 to 4 cups of prepared chicken stock plus water if required
1 teaspoon of allspice*
1 cup fine/crushed Freekeh, washed thoroughly and soaked for 30 minutes 

* You can use cumin powder if you do not have allspice. The flavours are not the same but I have seen quite a lot of recipes using cumin. I chose to use allspice because I had it.

Freekeh Chicken Soup | Smoked Green Wheat Chicken Soup

METHOD

  1. Place all the ingredients for preparing the chicken stock in a deep pot and add enough water to cover at least 3-4 centimetres above the chicken
  2. Bring the mixture to boil and then reduce the flame to medium to low and cover the pot
  3. Cook the chicken covered over medium heat until chicken is tender and the water is reduced by an inch. Approximately 30 minutes 
  4. Remove the chicken from the water one by one and shred them to discard the skin and bones.
  5. Pour the chicken stock through a sieve into a measuring jar. You should have around 3 to 4 cups of chicken stock.
  6. Heat the same pot, add olive oil and saute the chopped onions until translucent
  7. Add the freekeh and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Roasting the freekeh increases its flavour. 
  8. Pour the chicken stock and stir in the choice of spice, adjust the salt 
  9. Boil the soup until Freekeh is done. Approx 20 to 30 minutes
  10. Serve hot with any bread and olives or even with a dash of yoghurt or sour cream 
Freekeh Chicken Soup | Smoked Green Wheat Chicken Soup
(Pic was taken the next day morning - my breakfast. Look how thick it has become.)

As we are not the soup-friendly family I did not make this Freekeh soup very soupy. Feel free to make it soupy by adding more water while preparing the chicken stock.

You can make this soup even quicker if you have your own chicken stock or veg stock or store bought. Please refrain from using those cubes. I have not added any veggies, but carrots seem to be the go-to veggies in most of the freekeh recipes out there.

As this soup did not impress Mr F, I will try a few other Freekeh dishes until I find his favourite! But Freekeh will be on my grocery list here on.


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