I first heard about freekeh while doing my shift at the Park Slope Food Coop, where someone handed me a bag and said, “cook it like brown rice.” I opened the bag, and the grains smelled of sweet hay. It brought me back to the fields behind my grandparents’ house in Germany where chamomile flowers grew among the grains and a hazelnut tree stood nearby. The memory served me well in developing this recipe.
Cooking these whole grains of roasted green spelt in chamomile tea and adding in toasted hazelnuts accentuates the sweet and nutty qualities of the freekeh. I used whole grain freekeh, but it is sometimes sold cracked, like bulghur. If you are using cracked freekeh, the cooking time should be reduced. (I haven’t gotten my hands on the cracked kind, but would imagine it would cook in about 30 minutes.)
Serves 4 as a side dish
Preparation time: 1 hour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup freekeh
1 ¾ cups hot chamomile tea
½ kosher salt, plus more, to taste
½ cup shelled fresh peas
½ cup hazelnuts
1/3 cup minced parsley
juice of ½ lemon
2 teaspoons roasted hazelnut oil
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add butter. When butter is melted, add freekeh, tossing to coat the grains. After about 2 minutes, add the chamomile tea and salt. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and cover. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, quickly stir in the peas, and cover the pot again. When the freekeh is done, turn the heat off and keep the saucepan covered for another 10 minutes.
- While the freekeh is cooking, toast the hazelnuts in a toaster oven or in a small pan on the stove until the skins begin to crack and the nuts are fragrant. Wrap the nuts in a clean dish towel and let them sit to allow the skins to loosen up. After five minutes, rub the nuts from the outside of the towel to encourage the skins to come off. Unwrap the towel and remove the nuts, leaving the skins behind. (A wire mesh skimmer, or “spider,” works very well. Also, a loose-messed onion or potato bag does the job nicely.) Chop the hazelnuts.
- Add the hazelnuts, parsley, lemon juice, hazelnut oil, and salt, to taste to the freekeh and peas. Stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.