Although it’s a relative newcomer to Western kitchens, freekeh has been used around the Middle East and in Turkey for millennia and we love it for its intense savoury flavour. To make freekeh, wheat grains are harvested while still immature and green. They are then set on fire, which burns away the chaff, leaving the young kernels intact and imparting an intense, smoky flavour. In this hearty pilaf, freekeh pairs beautifully with the sweetness of the roasted pumpkin and shallots. It would make a wonderful meal on a cold winter’s night. —Greg and Lucy Malouf, authors of Moorish and New Feast
- 7 Ounces freekeh
- 2 fl oz olive oil
- 1 Teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 Teaspoon Turkish red chili flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
- 10 shallots, 2 halved and 8 left whole
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 24 –35 fl oz vegetable stock
- 14 Ounces butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2 cm (1 in) cubes
- 2 Teaspoons pomegranate molasses
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Lemon wedges and natural yoghurt, to serve
Pick through the freekeh to remove any debris or grit, then rinse it thoroughly under running water and leave to drain.
Heat half the oil in a heavy-based flame-proof casserole. Add the freekeh, allspice, cinnamon and half the chili flakes and stir well to coat with the oil. Add the garlic and the 2 halved shallots, together with the herbs and 750 ml (24 fl oz) of the stock. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer very gently for up to an hour. Resist the temptation to stir, as this makes the freekeh gluggy, but check every 20 minutes or so to make sure it’s not catching on the bottom of the pan. Add a little more stock if necessary.
While the freekeh is cooking, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Combine the remaining 8 shallots and the pumpkin cubes in a large mixing bowl. Add the other ingredients, including the remaining oil and chilli flakes, and toss everything together well.
Separate out the shallots and transfer them to a small roasting tin. Roast for 10 minutes, by which time they should be starting to soften and brown around the edges. Add the pumpkin and roast for a further 10 minutes, then test to see if the pumpkin is tender. If not, lower the heat to 180°C (350°F) and roast for another 10 minutes.
When the freekeh is cooked (it will still be a little chewy at the centre), check to see if all the liquid has evaporated. If not, turn up the heat for a few minutes until it is all absorbed. Remove from the heat and fish out the bay leaf and thyme if it bothers you. The onion and garlic will have cooked down into the pilaf, so give it a good stir and taste for seasonings. Add extra salt and pepper if need be.
Gently fold in the roasted pumpkin and shallots and serve straight away with lemon wedges and natural yoghurt.
Recipes excerpted with permission from New Feast by Lucy and Greg Malouf, Hardie Grant Books August 2017