Created by accident in Syria 2300 BCE, freekeh is immature wheat that is roasted and then threshed to separate the grain from the charred straw and chaff. This grain contains four times more fibre than brown rice, so makes a great alternative to potatoes, pasta or rice. This roast chicken stuffed with freekeh is a great way to show-off the super-grain. The freekeh can be made in advance to reduce cooking time.
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra, to drizzle
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 150 g minced lamb
- 205 g (1¼ cups) freekeh
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 750 ml (3 cups) chicken stock or water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp butter
- 50 g (⅓ cup) pine nuts
- 40 g (½ cup) flaked almonds
- 30 g (¼ cup) dried barberries (see Note)
- 1.8 kg whole chicken
- lemon wedges and herb salad, to serve
- salt and pepper, to taste
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.
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 60 ml (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.
As seen in Feast magazine, October 2011, Issue 2. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.