Roast chicken with freekeh stuffing recipe
- Cuisine: Syrian
Created by accident in Syria in 2300BCE, freekeh (or farik, Arabic for rubbed) is immature wheat that is roasted and then threshed to separate the grain from the charred straw and chaff.
According to the story, the inhabitants of a Syrian city, fearing they would starve while under siege, harvested their wheat crops early and stored the heads in a pile within the city walls. To salvage what they could when the wheat caught on fire, the people rubbed the charred heads of wheat to discover the green grain had not burned and had taken on an earthy, smoky flavour.
Because the grains are young when harvested, freekeh contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than mature wheat grains.
It also has a low glycaemic index and contains up to four times more fibre than brown rice, reports the CSIRO.
Freekeh makes a fresh alternative to pasta, rice or potatoes, and its versatility makes it suitable as a side dish or an ingredient in soups, salads, vegie burgers, breakfast cereals and various stuffings.
The grain is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and North African recipes, including the well-known Egyptian dish hamam bi’l-farik (pigeon stuffed with green wheat).
In Australia, packaged Greenwheat Freekeh (greenwheatfreekeh.com.au) is available from selected health food shops. If using unpackaged freekeh, rinse it to remove any chaff or stones.
Ingredients1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra, to drizzle
1 onion, finely chopped
150g minced lamb
205g (1¼ cups) freekeh
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp salt
750ml (3 cups) chicken stock or water
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon quill
1 tbsp butter
50g (⅓ cup) pine nuts
40g (½ cup) flaked almonds
30g (¼ cup) dried barberries*
1.8kg whole chicken
Lemon wedges and herb salad, to serve
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add onion and cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Add lamb and cook for 4 minutes or until browned. Add freekeh and ground spices, season with pepper and cook, stirring, for a further minute or until fragrant and freekeh is well coated. Add stock, bay leaf, cinnamon and 1½ tsp salt, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes or until freekeh is tender and the liquid has absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl. Wipe pan clean and reserve.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Melt butter in the reserved pan over medium heat. Cook nuts for 3 minutes or until golden. Add to freekeh mixture with barberries and stir to combine.
Pat chicken dry, including the cavity, with paper towel. Fill cavity with half the freekeh stuffing, then tie legs together with kitchen string. Drizzle with oil and rub all over chicken, then season with salt and pepper. Place in a lightly greased roasting pan and roast for 1 hour or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a skewer. Remove from oven, cover with foil and rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place remaining stuffing and 60ml (¼ cup) hot water in an ovenproof dish. Cover with foil and bake for 8 minutes or until heated through.
Carve chicken and serve with stuffing, lemon wedges and herb salad.
*Dried barberries, known as zereshk, are tart red berries often used in Persian cooking. They are available from specialist and Middle Eastern food shops.
Photography by John Laurie. Food preparation by Angela Nahas & Will Lewis.
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The dripping should be boiling when the batter is poured in to make it light and crispy on the outside.
A tiny French pastry or sweet, usually served with coffee or tea.