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