This past week dragged on and on until it finally killed itself out of despair. I’m glad it’s over and I really needed some form of distraction to snap out of my misery. All the way from Canada my ultrasonic ears picked a distress signal from a dame in anguish. The mother of a cyber friend needed my immediate attention and help. While shopping, she found a bag of Freekeh on a supermarket shelf. Rumor has it that she was flooded by memories of the good old times from her native Lebanon and of the days she had spent at her mother’s in Aleppo. The miles and years of her Ghorbeh (estrangement away from home) made her forget how to prepare a most delicious dish of Freekeh. So I donned my superhero outfit (does that remind you of something?) and to her rescue I bolted. “Freekeh you desire and Freekeh is what you should have Madame", I sang in my baritone voice.

Freekeh is sold in supermarkets or delicatessen stores all over the world. It's a highly nutritious grain made from roasted green wheat. 100% organic, it's filled with minerals and vitamins because the wheat is harvested while still young. It's extremely low in carbohydrates and high in fibers. But the way we cook it will render these health advantages trifling since we’re going to top it with most delicious lamb shanks (Mawzat) or if you’d rather not go all the way with chicken instead. Either choice, Freekeh is delicious and relatively easy to prepare. My advice is to get some plain salted yogurt on the side. Nothing goes more smoothly with Freekeh than a glass of cold Ayran.

1 Chicken cut in half or ½ kg of Lamb Shanks (bones removed)
1 Whole onion + 1 carrot
3 cups of freekeh, rinsed with water
1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 5 cinnamon sticks, 5 pods of cardamom (optional)
4 tablespoons butter or shortening
1 finely chopped onion
1 cup of mixed pine nuts and almonds (pistachios and cashews are nice additions but optional)

The pieces of chicken or lamb shanks are heated and turned over in a skillet to dry them off from their own excess juices for a few minutes.
Then in a pot we place the chicken or meat in 6-7 cups of water along with the salt, black pepper, 1 onion, 1 carrot, cinnamon sticks and cardamom. Bring to a boil then reduce heat for 1 ½ hour until chicken or meat is done and tender. Throw away the onion, the cinnamon sticks, the cardamom pods and the carrot.
Separately, soak 3 cups of Freekeh in water for 1 hour. Afterwards the water is drained completely. Butter or shortening along with a finely chopped onion are heated in a pot until the onion is soft then the Freekeh is added and stirred constantly over medium heat for 5 minutes.
The broth from the chicken or meat is added on top (about 5 cups). Bring to boil then cover and reduce heat for 45 minutes.
Again separately, your choice of nuts is sautéed in butter until light brown.
In a large dish the Freekeh is spread first then pieces of chicken (without the bones) or meat are spread over and all are topped by the beautiful looking nuts.
This is one hell of a good recipe and I’m sure you and your 5 companions will enjoy every single bite of it.

Ayran: This is basically diluted plain yogurt. Add water at ratio of 1 to 3 (1 water, 3 yogurt), salt per preference and some mashed garlic 2 to 3 cloves per 1 liter. Splash a few ice cubes and stir until cold. Serve in tall glasses and drink with the meal.

All photos used from the web. The first plate (chicken) has an optional rice layer. We never cook it with rice. The second (lamb shanks) with green peas. This is of course optional and entirely up to you.


Unknown said…
Hmmm. Another dish to add to my growing repertoire of things I need to cook!! It looks great!! I'm going to attempt the Asheh this weekend so keep your Super Hero outfit on...there may be another dame in distress!! ;)
Dania said…
Genius choice... Freekeh!

my host family in Aleppo to my surprise used to cook it with rice, it was freaky freekeh, very...very bad idea!

I prefer the freekeh with mozzat, your post encouraged me to try to cook it rather than just eat it for the first time in my life, using your way, am sure it will be really good especially with perfect Ayran.
I tried to make Ayran hundreds of times before and it always failed – too sour, too salty, too light...etc- , but not this time it won't, cause I have "Abufares's" ingredients!

Thanks for this delicious post, it's so appetising...
Diana said…
Freekeh has always freekehed me out.
Abu Fares,
From one superhero to another: "A Job well done". But your superhero guy seems to have had a little too much Freekeh. I suggest you have him pull up his red underwear over that unseemly bulge lest you offend someone who might then... ;)
Abufares said…
@Piscean Rubble
I can't wait to hear how your Asheh turns out. Photos, please don't forget photos.
Freekeh is as good as the meat it's cooked with. Pick the best tender lamb shanks and you can't but have a most delicious dish.
Abufares said…
To tell you the truth I'm more of a Burghul Guy. Needless to say, replace Freekeh with Burghul and you will get one of my favorite dishes. I top it off with a little bit of virgin olive oil in my own plate before I start eating. And, sometimes when I get a chance I replace the Ayran with something a little stronger.
By the way Ayran is very simple to prepare. Forget about the salt all together. Mix the yogurt with a tiny quantity of crushed garlic and add a little water. After you get the desired consistency, add salt as per taste. Pour in a tall glass on top of a couple of ice cubes. Voila!
Abufares said…
Burghul always burghuled me out. I get my chance to eat Freekeh mostly in "all men" weddings. I normally eat home before I go to social occasions. But in this type of events food is the only way not to lose my mind or fall asleep:-)
Abufares said…
@Abu Kareem
You're absolutely right. Even the photo of thig ugly fat dude might be considered offensive, simplistic and controversial.
At least the Freekeh is sedate enough of a subject not to cause any upset minds. Upset stomachs perhaps but nothing a cold glass of Ayran won't cure.
Anonymous said…
Yesterday I had the pizza I was craving for, for a week. One of my Aleppo-origin cousins with excellent cooking abilities (unlike mine) made two trays in honor of my continuous nagging - "I see pizza all around me, when was the last time you had pizza, is there a good pizza place around?".

I can safely say by the second paragraph in this post, my cells formed a pretty good idea of what they'll be craving for next.
Abufares said…
Thank you for your first time comment. I've been visiting your very interesting blog for a while but did not comment until today (pssst... before I knew that you've commented here). Yeah, I know you did it first but mine won't be my last especially since I'm still debating whether I should just take you word that you are a Sufi. Since I haven't met any self-confessed Sufis before I really don't know what to make of it. One thing for certain though I'm having an exceptionally delightful time reading your blog.
Yazan said…
Ya Abu Fares,

Your blog is turning into plain sweet pain for us who live oh-so-far-away from even western delicatessen stores!

Freekeh, I miss greatly. Bas, Last week, a friend from Lebanon brought some burghul and invited us to a feast of Burghul bi Bandora!

I have a request, for when you have time, Is there an easy way to make Mkhallal? Nothing here seems to taste quite like the Mkhallal of home!
Abufares said…

My friend's father owns and runs the best M2ane2 Sandwich Joint in Tartous. He also makes perfect Mkhallal and provides us at home with our uninterrupted supply.
I'll be out of town for a few days and as soon as I'm back I'll get the "secret" recipe and start working on my Mkhallal post.
I will need some photos of course which means that I should visit the old city where Mkhallal is proudly exhibited on storefronts.

BTW non-Arabic readers, Mkhallal is Pickles.
Anonymous said…
Too much food...

This week was Thanksgivings. Turkey Day! And now your recipe for MORE food...

I'm going on a diet.
Only fruit for a week and light, light salads.

: )

KJ said…
abufares, while I am going to be eating that dish very soon mn 2eed setti inshalla, I am appalled at your choice of including a photo with rice in it! Disgusting!
Anonymous said…
Abufare you are (3lesool), it is nice to learn from you, and nice to reed you every day not only on monday,
by the way the fishing was good this weekend,
at this moment I,m listening SABAH FAKHRI, ASSKHE AL 3ETASH, ya salam,
Abufares have a nice week
ps. my mom and my sister are in Halab and they said that the made very traditional (kebe be senie, )as the Alepine say which is (kebe bel feren), but they used very especial berghol as she said (red berghol)this wheet growes neer Halab,
Dubai Jazz said…
I’ve never really liked freekeh. Okay, if there’s nothing else to eat I’d manage. But we usually cook it with rice. Not mixed though, half the plate rice, and the other half freekeh. With lamb or chicken shanks. Diluted yogurt with cucumber and grinded garlic is essential!

There’s usually a race toward picking up the shanks and pieces of lamb or chicken without being so obvious about it. Especially in large family meals. And especially for kids who used to hate freekeh like me. Once upon a time a man was frowned upon for grazing the whole plate out of its meat matter (he was simply pushing the rice toward the sides so that the shanks will collapse toward him); he smiled at the men gathered around the dining table, who were all looking at him with irritation, and he sang:

عرف الفضل أهله فتقدما...!!

One man of the lot sneered at him and replied:

كثر النبش تحته فتهدما....!!
Abufares said…
Appalled no less. I agree with you though, rice doesn't belong here.
Abufares said…
Nobody can do justice to the wonderful Aleppine cuisine with words. Only be going there and trying it first hand would people appreciate what they've been missing.
Abufares said…
You brought a smile to my face... all the way to my lonely little hotel room in foggy Venice.
Katia said…

Don't stay in that foggy hotel room! Sure, Venice is flooding... but the Dutch are there to try and surf on St Mark's... while trying to escape from the local police!

And appropriately, a mouthwatering post ;-)
a humble request...(for anyone not allowing this post through--not spam--)

Anyone happen to know who Secret Dubai (the blogger: is?
Abufares said…
I'm back where it's not as foggy but almost as gloomy. I love winter but even that has changed. You're right about one thing though... Amsterdam anytime:-)

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