Similar to the popular dish riz a’djaj (poached chicken served on rice), this recipe uses toasted freekeh wheat with its distinctive nutty taste. The wheat is cooked slowly like a risotto with chicken stock, minced meat, spices and onion until it is soft and flavoursome. The dish is then piled high onto a serving platter and served with poached chicken pieces, Syrian truffle (if available), pine nuts and almonds.
- 2 cups freekeh
- 1 medium free range chicken (about 1.5 kg)
- ½ brown onion, quartered
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 4 bay leaves
- 6 cardamom pods
- 2 tbsp clarified butter (ghee) or olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 300 g minced lamb or beef (optional)
- 1 tsp baharat
- ½ cup almonds
- ½ cup pine nuts
- 4–6 small Syrian truffles, peeled and sliced (optional)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Wash the freekeh and remove any burnt grains or stones.
Put the chicken in a pot and cover with water. Add the brown onion, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cardamom and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
Remove the chicken from the pot (leaving a light stock) and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the skin and break the meat into large pieces, removing the bones.
Bring the chicken stock back to a slow simmer. Heat the ghee or olive oil in a large saucepan and add the red onion. Fry until beginning to soften, then add the lamb or beef, if using, and cook until browned. Stir in the freekeh. Add the baharat and 1 heaped teaspoon of salt and stir through. Add 1 litre of hot chicken stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.
Melt a little butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the almonds and cook until lightly toasted. Remove from the pan and repeat with the pine nuts. Remove from the pan and add another knob of butter. When it melts, add the truffles, if using, and coat with butter. Add the chicken pieces, ground cinnamon and 500 ml of hot stock. Bring to the boil, reheating the chicken.
Spoon the freekeh onto a large serving plate. Place the chicken and truffles on top and scatter with the nuts.