Popular in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, freekeh has a deliciously nutty flavour, with a texture similar to brown rice. Cracked freekeh cooks in half the time it takes to make traditional risotto, making this the perfect mid-week dish for the time-challenged. Use homemade or good-quality stock to get the most out of this dish.
- 40 g sourdough bread
- juice and finely grated rind of 1 lemon
- 80 g fresh ricotta, plus extra to serve
- 2 cups basil leaves
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 120 g cracked freekeh (see Note)
- 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
- 1 bunch broccolini
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.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Place the sourdough in a food processor and process until roughly chopped. Season lightly and spread on a baking paper-lined oven tray and bake for 7–8 minutes or until golden. Combine the toasted breadcrumbs and lemon rind and set aside.
Place the basil and ricotta in a food processor with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 2 tsp olive oil. Process until smooth, season to taste and set aside.
Slice the broccoli stems into ½ cm thick rounds and set aside. Slice the flowers into small florets.
Bring the stock to the boil and blanch the broccolini florets for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and refresh in cold water. Drain and set aside.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds and a pinch of salt, and cook for 3–4 minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the freekeh and broccoli stems and stir well to coat. Add a ladleful of hot stock. Cook, stirring, until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding the next. Continue to cook for 13–15 minutes or until all the stock has been absorbed and the freekeh is tender. Stir through the ricotta mixture and reserved broccoli florets until heated through. Season to taste and balance the flavour with extra lemon juice if necessary.
Divide freekeh between bowls and scatter over the breadcrumbs. Dot with extra ricotta and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.
• Cracked freekeh is a roasted young wheat grain available in the health-food section of supermarkets and from health-food stores.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers.
Kay Bojesen fork from Great Dane Furniture.