Oh fun, thanks to Freekeh South Africa and The Really Interesting Food Company – Trifco I got to experiment with this precious ancient grain. Make something with it, and compete against nine other foodies. Now, some of you might know that I recently left the nine-to-five job for a freelance one to hopefully do something with food one day … so I doubt I’ll win, just stoked I get to play.
Freekeh is a staple in the Middle-East and I first heard of Freekeh (also known as farik) in an episode of ‘A Cook Abroad’ where Dave Myers visited Egypt to uncover the origins of bread making. It’s an ancient grain, produced from young green durum wheat that’s roasted over an open fire – that gives it a lovely earthy, nutty and smokey taste to it. In my case, I also tasted smokey mature green tea. It’s Low GI, high in fibre and protein.
What should I make?
Congee is a rad dish to showcase grain as the hero. Even though it’s gorgeously silky … boiling water and white rice simply isn’t the most nutritious, and the fibre content isn’t that high after your break down the rice into porridge. I decided to replace 1/4 of the white rice with Freekeh to add some texture and flavour.
This dish takes me back to cold wintery days when I was home, sick, and mama would make this savoury porridge. It is a simple yet hearty meal typically made with white rice and water, boiled in a pot for several hours. Mama’s was full of fragrant ginger, century egg, marinated pork strips and spring onions. It was served hot off the pot … silky and creamy. Now, I wouldn’t suggest this for the western palate and since Kyle’s feeling sickies and I need to make hearty congee to sort him out.
For this recipe, I’ll be boiling the rice and freekeh down in a gingery bone marrow broth, rather than just water. Bones are fantastic for broths, and adding bone marrow thickens it beautifully. I slow-cooked this rich hearty broth for 5 hours in the oven, the longer you let it go, the thicker it gets and more flavour it releases. Strained through muslin cloth, the broth is left clear and ready for the rice and freekeh. Thanks to my little brother, Frank, for coming by to take the pictures for me.
Freekeh, White Rice and Bone Marrow Congee
Ingredients for a quick broth:
- Enough water to cover
- 500g beef bones with bits of meat
- 2 – 3 pieces of bone marrow
- 3 Tbsp vinegar
- 100g fresh ginger (in slices)
- 2 stalks of celery (diced)
- 3 large leeks
- 2 sliced spring onions
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A tied bunch of thyme
- Roast/panfry the meaty bones so it caramelises the edges.
- Fry up the ginger, celery, leeks, onions, garlic, salt and pepper till translucent.
- In a large oven-proof pot with lid, add water to the pot and place the bones in the water.
- Add vinegar.
- Add the veggie-base mix and thyme, season then bring it to a boil.
- Once it’s boiling, lower the heat till it’s a light bubble.
- Keep the lid on, and let it simmer away for as long as you can (a minimum of 2 hours to release flavours, mine go for about 6 hours).
- Strain it through a large sieve, or muslin cloth.
Ingredients for Freekeh, White Rice and Bone Marrow Congee:
- 1/4 Cup cracked Freekeh
- 3/4 Cup white rice (I used Taiwanese white rice)
- 4 Cups of broth/water
- Sliced shiitake mushrooms
- Fresh veggies and chillies
- Steam Freekeh and white rice the night before and refrigerate.
- Boil the broth in a pot on the stove.
- Add the cold previously steamed grains.
- Let it simmer slowly to a boil, stir occasionally.
- Once the broth has reduced and the grains have increased in size, add your fresh veggies and boil for 20 seconds before serving. It’s quite nice to have crunchy textures of vegetables with the soft and silky congee. (Vegetables like bok choy, mustard greens, baby corn, radish slices, coriander, chillies and freshly chopped spring onion).
- Serve with bone marrow, a dash of soya sauce and garnish with spring onions, chillies and fried thinly-sliced ginger.