It's a freekeh world we live in, when a holy grain is trademarked

Farike (TM) soup with charred eggplant and lamb kefta.
Farike (TM) soup with charred eggplant and lamb kefta. Photo: David Reist

In my last-minute attempts to find something new, this week I stumbled on a product as old as the bible. I spend more time than I should looking around food shops and seeing what's new, different or a "superfood".

You don't have to look hard to find superfoods these days, so when I noted this adage on a packet of Freekeh, I thought wow, the ancient people of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa,  were way ahead of their time. So that will do, methinks, maybe now that freekeh is a superfood, it can take off like noni and maca.

What is freekeh anyway? Well, it's just wheat, but, now that the name "Freekeh" is under trademark by Greenwheat, Australia, we should call it by the ancient name, farike or frikeh, anything to keep the lawyers from our doors.

I'm not sure if Greenwheat, Australia has thought long and  hard about this trademarking of something they didn't invent.  Once I see that little "TM" next to a product, I think Big Mac™. As good a product as farike may be, once it's been commercialised into products like premixed Freekeh™ biscuits and pancake mix, I start looking for other supposed superfoods like blue-green algae to feed the family.

I don't really understand why they need to make this grain, or really a process of making this type of grain, something that is remotely corporate. They didn't discover it,  and you have to go back a long way to have a clue as to the origin of this little-known grain.

There are many mentions in the Bible that can be interpreted - as only verses from the Bible can - to be farike. I'm sure I don't need to remind you, but in Matthew 12:1 (perhaps not an exact quotation, but you will get the drift): "At the time Jesus went through the grain field on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them".

Yes, it does sound a little like they are stealing a farmer's crop and, well, isn't there something in the Bible about that? There are a few hints that this could be farike. Mainly, you can't eat, nor get goodness out of, ripe wheat. Once it hardens, and this would have been durum wheat, you need to grind the seed. The grain formerly known as Freekeh™ is the green seed, before it hardens but still full of starch and protein. So, if this  marauding band of Saturday afternoon crop-raiders were eating the heads of grain, it stands to reason that it must have been farike.

There's more, Samuel 17:28: "They bought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain ..."  Freekeh™ is made by setting fire to the air-dried husks containing the green wheat seeds, which due to  their moisture content,  do not burn. The singed wheat is then threshed and rubbed and then you have Farike™ (I've just decided to trademark farike myself, so you better be careful using it)

Thus endeth today's lesson.

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And to use this ancient grain, I've up-ended my spice cupboard and thought of all the good foodie things that come out of the Middle East and knocked together a little soup that wouldn't have fed the masses like the loaves and the fishes, but is still a pretty hearty, healthy dish.

Farike™ soup with charred eggplant and lamb kefta

Kefta

500g lamb shoulder mince
1 small onion, diced
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tspn ground allspice
½ tspn ground cinnamon
pinch Allepo pepper
salt
grapeseed oil

Soup

1 small eggplant
1 large red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 yellow capsicum, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tspn Allepo pepper or other dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp spice mix – see note below
1 tin diced peeled tomatoes
200g Freekeh
1 litre chicken stock
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 bunch coriander, chopped
salt and pepper
grapeseed oil

Over a gas flame, or under a grill, toast the whole eggplant, turning often, until it is thoroughly singed and smoking. Cool a little and carefully separate the flesh, dice and reserve. In a soup-sized pot, heat a big splash of grapeseed oil and fry the onion, celery, carrot, capsicum, garlic and ginger until soft, add the pepper and spice mix and cook in a little and add the reserved eggplant, tomato, freekeh and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes. Stir often to keep the grains in suspension,

Meanwhile you can make the kefta by mixing together the lamb, spices and salt. Work the spices through and form into fairly small meatballs (kefta). Heat the oil in a frypan and lightly fry the kefta until just set.

With about 10 minutes to go, add the kefta and chickpeas. Once the soup is done, check seasoning and serve with coriander, unleavened bread and spiced yoghurt.

Spice mix

1 tbsp cumin seed
1 tspn coriander seed
1 tspn cardamom seeds
½ cinnamon quill, crushed
1 tspn allspice powder

Dry roast the seeds until fragrant and add the cinnamon. Grind to a powder with the allspice.

Bryan Martin is the winemaker at Clonakilla and Ravensworth