Artichoke Freekeh Risotto

artichoke risotto

“Risotto”, of course, means it’s made with rice. But “charred wheat stew” doesn’t sound as appetizing as it actually is. So with the creative culinary expression invokable by quotation marks, I’ll allying this recipe with it’s Italian cousin, risotto, because it’s made the exact same way. And for those who don’t have freekeh, and don’t want to scope it out, can make it the traditional way with rice.

Freekeh

For those willing to do a bit of searching, freekeh is fire-roasted green (unripe) wheat, whose charred hulls get removed, leaving just the lovely greenish grains for cooking. Because the whole wheat berries take a long time to cook, most of the freekeh is cracked and sold that way. It should say on the package – if not, look at the suggested cooking time; whole berries will take about an hour to cook whereas the cracked will take about half that time, or less.

artichokes

Freekeh has become one of my new favorite foods. And it’s not just because it’s a big bowl of carbohydrates, but anything with a smoky flavor immediately gets a pass to move right to the top of my eating list. I was fortunate because my friend Anissa Helou brought me two big boxes of freekeh on her last visit to Paris, and my other friend Bethany works with the folks at Freekehlicious, who sent me two packets of the stuff to try as well. I love friends – and freekeh!

Freekeh

So I’ve been getting my “freek” on, if you’ll excuse the pun. (And in this case, I can’t quite let the quotation marks let me off so easy.) I first made a variation on my Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad, adding a Lebanese touch with a big pinch of allspice mixed in at the end, which got top marks with dinner guests. Then I cooked up a bumper crop of artichokes that I scored at the market, and made this for lunch, which got similar kudos. (And no bad puns.)

Artichoke Freekeh Risotto

Artichoke Freekeh Risotto

Four servings

Middle Eastern stores are good places to find freekeh; I saw several kinds when shopping the other day at Sabah (140, Faubourg St. Antoine, Paris) and you can find it online, as well as in some natural food stores. Be sure to follow the instructions for cleaning it on the package. Some recommend sorting through it carefully to remove any debris. I also pre-soak it, which makes it cook a little more quickly and any debris that rises to the top can easily be discarded.

You can also use arborio or carnaroli rice to make this, in place of the freekeh. If using rice, do not rinse it and there is no need to presoak it. For vegetarians, it’s absolutely fine to use vegetable stock and omit the bacon. You can vary the herbs, replacing the parsley with fresh mint or tarragon, or replace the thyme with chopped rosemary leaves.

For the artichokes, you can use already prepared artichoke (tinned or jarred) hearts, sliced, or better yet, fresh. Check out my post: How to Prepare and Cook Artichokes.

  • 1 1/2 cups (220 g) freekeh (cracked, not whole)
  • 4 1/2 cups (1.05 l) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) diced bacon
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
  • 2 cups (450 g) sliced artichokes
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
  • zest of one lemon, unsprayed or organic
  • 3/4 cup (70 g) grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

1. Rinse the freekah in a colander then put it in a bowl and cover it with cold water. Let sit 30 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

2. Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan and keep it hot while you make the risotto.

3. Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan. Add the onion and bacon and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the freekeh and garlic, then the white wine, and cook for a minute, stirring.

4. Ladle enough hot stock over the freekeh so it is just barely covered. Cook the freekeh, and when that stock is almost absorbed, add another ladleful of stock. Continue cooking, adding stock at it gets absorbed into the freekeh, until you’ve added about two-thirds of the stock.

5. Add the cooked artichokes, parsley, and thyme, and continue to cook, adding more stock, until the freekeh is tender and all the stock is absorbed. Add the fresh lemon zest and parsley, stir a few times, then remove from heat and stir in the cheese.

6. Taste, and add a bit of salt or a squeeze of lemon, if desired. Top with additional parsley or grated cheese, if desired.

Variation: You can add a generous handful of fresh or frozen peas or fava beans toward the end of cooking.



Related Recipes

Tabbouleh

Israeli Couscous with Butternut Squash and Preserved Lemon

Freekeh Salad (Katherine Martinelli)

Freekeh with Slow-Roasted Lamb Shank (Syrian Foodie)

Freekeh with Chicken (SBS Food)

46 comments

  • That must be so good! I love freekeh and often use it.

  • It’s super freekeh! I may have to give this a try just for all the bad puns I can make…

  • This sounds great, if only you could find an abundance of reasonably priced artichoke in London I would be making this today, but I might have to treat myself anyway.

    • Usually artichokes are somewhat pricey here but I think these were €2/kilo. The good thing is that a little goes a long way and the fresh are a lot better than the tinned ones, so even if they’re more expensive, they’re usually worth it.

  • I recently found fresh baby artichokes and pan fried them according to a recipe I found in the NYTimes — very tasty… This looks like another wonderful way to eat them. If only my grocery store would get them in again.

  • Here in Finland we use especially whole wheat and pearl barley to make risottos or risotto-like dishes made exactly the same way, I just love the nutty flavour of whole spelt /dinkel wheat in a risotto, and just saw the other day even a potato-otto, potato cubes made in a risotto-like way.

  • Yummy…Thank you :)))

  • It’s asparagus season, too. What do you think about them in this terrific sounding dish?

    • Absolutely! I would oven-roast the spears with olive oil, and salt and pepper, then slice them on the bias, and add them near the end of cooking. Good idea : )

  • This is so fabulous! Love all those flavours :)

  • How do you pick fresh artichokes at the market? Should the leaves be tight against themselves, or should they be “unfolding” just a tad? Anything with a smokey flavor is right up there at the top of my list too. Can’t wait to make this! Thanks!

    • Usually tight heads on larger artichokes are indicators of freshness, but I also look at the stem end. (Smaller artichokes aren’t as tight as larger ones so that’s not the same indicator as it is with the larger ones.) Either way, sometimes merchants will try to pass off ones that are “going”, so check the bottom of the stems for any mold or mushy bits down there.

  • Thank you, David. Fresh artichokes are going on my market list and I’ll be making this dish this weekend.

  • I was thrilled to see this recipe in my inbox today! I live in Lebanon and have only had freekeh prepared one way – I always love it, but am excited to try it another way, especially since artichokes are VERY reasonably priced here (just 70 cents each at the supermarket this week) Thanks!

  • As a recent follower to your site I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed your posts. Two nights ago Iprepared the curried beef and truly enjoyed it. Last night my wife surprised me with the roasted chicken with shallots. Will definitely be trying the artichokes with risotto this weekend

  • Isn’t freekeh a very special ingredient? Your preparation of it looks absolutely delicious.

    • The Arabic shops in Paris sell it for about €4 for a nice sized bag. I checked on Amazon for price information and it’s about the same. Not sure if that’s the answer in terms of “special” but I know it’s eaten widely in Lebanon.

  • What would be your opinion of trying to smoke bulgur or brown rice or using a smoked salt at the end of the preparation? I love smoky flavors and it would be a shame not to have it in this recipe.

  • Waiting for artichokes to come in (in Ca)…then try this nutritious carb. freekeh. Very interesting and unique approach to risotto.

  • I’m smelling the mouth watering aroma already. Could you use épeautre instead?

  • I am a follower of all your posts.I really love your sence of humor and how well you express everything you see or taste. I am from Chile, South America and I never heard about “freekeh” I’l start looking for it right away… In this time of the year we have plenty of fresh artichoques, they are sold everywhere including the street, specilly when you are waiting in the red light.

  • My local Turkish shop sells Freekeh but I did not know how to use it until I was given a copy of the wonderful The Gaza Kitchen. Made the freekeh soup and then added shiitakes and salmon to poach in the soup. Was delicious. Such a versatile grain and what a taste!! Quite unlike anything else. Next I will try your recipe which looks great. Thanks.

  • I bought my first freekeh at a Lebanese grocery in San Jose, CA. I don’t remember the brand, maybe Ziyad. It was delicious, with a nice smoky flavor, but it took me a long time to pick out all the tiny stones, which were very difficult to distinguish from the darker pieces of grain. I fed the rest of the bag to my chickens and vowed not to eat it again. But then there was a recipe in “Jerusalem” and I bought Freekeh-Foods brand. It was very clean but didn’t taste much different than regular cracked wheat. Does the Freekehlicious brand have the nice smoky flavor but without all those tiny stones?

  • There’s a brand om spanish style marinated artichokes that I’m just addicted to. I also cook them whole on occassion, I don’t cut the base either.
    If one doesn’t find freekeh, is there a good substitute?

  • I meant that I cook whole, raw artichokes sometimes. I don’t cook the marinated ones. I eat them, essentially, out of the jar.

  • I have never looked for freekeh and don’t know if I can find it near me, but now I will look for it. My first thought of a substitution was petit épeautre. If you have never had petit épeautre do try it. It is sadly not available in the US other than online from one source. It is one of the items I always bring home from France. I first found it in a hypermarché, but have had to look in bio markets in some towns. It seems to me that farro would also work.

  • Jessica: You can use one of the Italian rices that I mentioned and make a traditional risotto, which is delicious. Try to use good stock, preferably homemade, if you can.

    Joan and Nikki: Pearlized farro may work as it softens faster than regular farro or petit épeautre, which is quite firm. I actually prefer farro in general to petit épeautre in most cases but it’s not easily available in France.

    Madeleine: I’ve been meaning to get that book because I hear it’s wonderful. Glad you like it!

    Astrid: I don’t have a smoker, or a good hood fan (!) so I’ve not smoked anything but it sounds like a good idea to try. I like smoked salt but it wouldn’t add that much flavor, unless you used a lot (and probably an unhealthy amount) of it.

    Cathy: Someone told me that some brands have to be sorted carefully (which can be done on a baking sheet, I’ve read from Bethany, who was mentioned in the post). Of the two brands I have, the Freekehlicious and the Lebanese brand (Abido), there were no stones.

    • I eat alot of rice so that’s a good idea. Does freekeh (which i’ve never had) have the same taste as a rice? I have all the varieties of rice.

  • Hi David
    This sounds great but as I can’t eat gluten, I will try using roasted buckwheat instead. Fingers crossed.

  • You’d think after several years of reading your blog I’d have learned my lesson (sigh)… NEVER read your blog when I am hungry.. but alas, I went ahead and read it … have the freekeh, now all I need are those artichokes! Speaking of which, your tutorial on how to prepare them is the best one I have ever seen. Bookmarking to send to several friends!!!

  • Freekeh smells somewhat too smokey for my taste so I usually either cook it with 1/1 ratio with bulgur or regular rice. It also makes nice ‘meze’ if you mix cooked freekeh and yogurt, garlic and some parsley :-) The combinations are endless and it is always delicious :-)

    • I didn’t find it too smokey, but I suppose it can vary by brands. I’ve seen people cook it with things like rye berries (which take longer to cook, so I suppose they use whole freekeh, rather than the cracked) – and I’m glad I have a few packets left because I’ve going to use it more and more as I like it so much.

  • Have never heard of freekh but now the freek-a-leek song is stuck in my head….

  • Those artichokes look SUPERB! :)

  • Freekeh is so tasty ! Freek, as you pronounced it, is also eaten during ramadan, as an alternative to chorba. I love it! Your version with artichoke is definitely a must try. Freekeh is similar (to me) to roasted kasha, don’t you think?
    Btw thanks for the tutorial on how to prep the “artichaud violet”. Till now, i only knew one way to prepare artichoke: boiled. The green one such as Camus. Now, thanks to you, I’ll be able to enjoy the violet ones. And Vive freekeh !

  • This looks great, I’ll have to try it sometime. I always have difficulty with artichokes, even though I love the flavour!

  • Having lived been an American-in-Paris for 9 years, mostly in the (1980s) “Dark Ages” of the Internet, it warms my heart! And brings back so many funny memories: opening a gazillion individual Kiri nature to make cheesecake, and the first Thanksgiving, our turkey wouldn’t fit into our tiny doll-house sized oven. Frantic, I took it to our corner Boulangerie and convinced the boulanger to bake it in their oven…..I expected it come back “en croute”. It didn’t, but was the best turkey ever! Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how much I love reading your adventures and trying out your fabulous recipes. Kindered spirits.

    • I remember a few years ago we had Thanksgiving in Provence. My friends pre-ordered a whole turkey (because, as you know, they’re hard to find) and when we picked it up at the butcher, he had already stuffed it with a meat stuffing of some sort. I figured that when we got home, we’d empty it out and add a more traditional bread stuffing. When we unwrapped it, it was so beautifully trussed that I dared not touch it & we roasted it as is. And like you said, it was the best turkey ever!~

      (On another note, when I moved here, very, very few people had internet access and when I said I wanted it in my apartment, people thought I was kind of crazy. Now, of course, everyone has it and the whole country is wired and connected. But way-back-then, it was a strange and mysterious concept – even though they had had the minitel for a while, which was a precursor of the ‘net.)

  • Hi David-
    My friend Bonnie Matthews is a eats, breathes, and lives Freekeh here in the US. She is a spokesperson and sales person for Freekeh, which she got in many stores here in the US. She has a recipe book she made with all Freekeh recipes. Perhaps she could mail one to you!
    David, I am almost finished reading The Sweet Life and I love it o much, I don’t actually want to finish the book! Isn’t that crazy? What will I read and enjoy as much once I close your book??? You transport me to Paris, a city I love, and you do it in such an honest and humorous way. I wish you would consider doing a second Sweet Life book, perhaps something like Sweet Life Holidays in Paris! If so, you already have one book sold, and I am QUITE sure I am not the only one! Thanks for your thoughts and your recipes!! Let me know if you would like a Freekeh cookbook! I can arrange that for you!
    Wendy Harrison
    Savannah, GA

  • Great sounding recipe. Never heard of freekah….how about using bulgur?

    We have FABULOUS chokes here in Spain. Also, there are fresh frozen artichokes that I use all the time.

    Thanks again David, your the best.

  • Your recipe was a winner, well, there’s no surprise there…even though I admit to having used frozen artichoke hearts, as Geraldine mentioned above. Between your site, and more recently, Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Jerusalem,” following your recommendation, we’re one happy family!

  • So appetizing!!!

  • how about using whole spelt ?

    I bought a box of Freekah in a Middle Eastern grocery in Paterson NJ a few months ago, cooked it according to the package instructions , and after browsing a little online for recipes, and hated the “grassy ” taste. I ended up composting the rest of it. I love grains of all sorts. Perhaps the type I bought wasn’t smoked.

    • Sure, you could use whole grains but they will take longer to cook and will likely need more liquid added.

  • Better luck cooking freekeh using this method. Made risotto with a little less oil, no bacon and replaced artichokes with cooked collard greens and was great! The smokiness of the grain was wonderful with the greens.

    Thanks for the nudge to try this great grain again. I am sold!

  • Finally had the chance to prepare this today -I’ve made freekeh before, but never with vegetables like this and it was delicious.
    I only had a cup of freekeh on hand, so I added 1/2 cup white rice for the rest and that worked out great (it is common in Lebanon to mix the two) – but you need to start cooking the freekeh before the rice as it takes longer.
    I wish, however, that I had paid more attention to your advice to keep trimming the artichokes. I’m a novice with artichokes, and we had a few tough bits. They’re so much work – I’m going to try your suggestion of tossing in a handful of fava beans or peas next time instead, that sounds great.