dirty freekeh

posted in: cooking, Featured, recipe swap, recipes | 18

When life in the office gets too stressful, sometimes retreating to the safety of the local Jewish deli for the lunch hour is necessary. In the past week, my coworker Eryn and I needed an escape desperately. While she responsibly took some work files to look over, I acted as entertainment. The February issue of Bon Appetit, themed “Savor the South,” is my favorite magazine in ages. Obviously, my Southern roots gives me a bias but this issue is pretty awesome.

In the middle of pretty much reading the magazine out loud, I spied a recipe for Dirty Farro, an awesome twist on dirty rice. Except when I mentioned the recipe to Eryn, she heard it as “dirty pharaoh” and in the state of our stress-induced delirium, “dirty pharaoh” has become contagious.  Between our new catchphrase, my existing crush on the Bon Appetit issue and the February vintage recipe swap’s wild rice recipe, inspiration was all-encompassing.

While pondering my creation, I found freekeh tucked away in the depths of my pantry. What is freekeh, you might ask? It’s a spelt berry that is picked while green and then smoked. In my youth, I have eaten many servings of the Arabic freekeh, which was the what my dad’s family called a grain and meat stew. Not until I moved to New York and saw freekeh at the farmer’s market did I realized that’s the name of the grain, not just the dish.

After a year of being intimidated by the little smoked grain sitting in my cabinets, I took the plunge with sausage and chicken livers, the holy trinity of mirepoix and some smoky spices. I imagine adding a little more liquid, egg and bread crumbs could create a fantastic dressing more similar to our Vintage Recipe Swap, but I love a grain side dish that resembles a salad more than a casserole. The chicken livers add depth with their earthy flavor, the cured chorizo creates a little chewy, spicy texture, the mirepoix is a great base, and the freekeh gets just tender enough, with still a little bite. The freshness of the celery leaves and parsley folded in at the end is lovely.


dirty freekeh

Serving Size: 8-10, or a lot.

If tracking down freekeh isn't your thing, farro, spelt or wheat berries, brown rice or wild rice could all work. A larger, heartier grain gives the dish more texture and body than something like quinoa or white rice.


  • 2 cups freekeh
  • 2.5 cups [20 ounces] water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bullion cube [optional]
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 pound chicken livers, trimmed, chopped
  • 4 ounces cured, dried chorizo, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onions [about 1 large onion]
  • 3/4 cups diced carrots [about 2 carrots]
  • 3/4 cups diced celery [about 2 stalks]
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic [about 4 cloves]
  • 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup [8 ounces] water
  • 1/2 cup celery leaves, choppd
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped


  1. Cook the freekeh. Place the freekeh, water, bay leaves and bullion cube [if using] in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, uncover and cook for 30-45 minutes. You want the freekeh [or whatever grain used] al dente, so that it is edible but a little bit chewy. It will cook more later.
  2. Reserve the freekeh in a bowl and use the same pot. On medium heat, add the oil, chopped liver and chorizo to the pan. Let cook for 5 minutes, letting the chorizo brown and the liver cook.
  3. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, Worchestershire sauce, five spice, allspice, garam masala, turmeric and red pepper flakes and a pinch of kosher salt to the pot. Let saute for five more minutes, unti the vegetables soften.
  4. Add the water, scraping up the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Bring to a simmer and lower to medium-low [keeping a steady, not rolling, simmer]. Cook, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half.
  5. Stir in the freekeh and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and the freekeh is tender. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Once tender, stir in the celery leaves and parsley. Taste. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Enjoy!


18 Responses

  1. I have not had freekah, but I’m a sucker for anything smoky, so I’ll be looking into it for sure! This looks amazing. I loooooove dirty rice and I bet the wild rice gave it a really nice texture.

    I totally agree with you about last month’s Bon Appetit– amazing from cover to cover.

  2. It is the 2nd time in a week or so that I see a recipe with freekeh AND I have also seen it at the local coop AND your dish looks awesome> Might that be a sign?

  3. I love this dirty pharaoh. Lol. This is such a great take on the recipe. I love added smokiness. Your photos just make me want to dive in the dish and eat my way out.

  4. Love it! Also, that you found freekeh at the farmers market. Oh, New York, how I miss you! So glad you are a part of the recipe swap; I hope you had fun with this!

  5. I’ve never heard of Freekah and now two of you use it…makes me curiouser and curiouser. I’ve have to scope it out…and your recipe both looks and sounds fabulous.

  6. I love that your post explores a new and interesting ingredient and expands my culinary knowledge – Thanks

  7. What a funny story, and the recipe sounds delicious too! Learned something new for sure

  8. I too have not heard of freekah and am glad for the education. It sounds great with the smokiness added. Being spelt I could not enjoy it but your recipe sounds fabulous!

  9. Ok, that’s it, I need to find freekeh (I just finished reading another freekeh post for the swap)! It just looks too good!

  10. Hello, my freekeh sister! I am jealous that you had many freekeh meals in your childhood, as I really liket the texture and bite of the grain.
    Your story made me giggle, as I imagined the “dirty pharaoh”:)
    I love dirty rice, and anything with chorizo and liver (together? Awesome!) has to be good.
    I have another bag of freekeh in my pantry and next time I’ll make your version (my husband is from Georgia, and he will appreciate it:)

  11. hehe – I can imagine the creative spark during your lunch retreat. Food can indeed be funny!
    I’m so excited to have learned about a new grain from your post! Freekeh sounds incredible and I’m now determined to get my hands on some!

  12. OMG, wow, this looks Ah Maz Zing. I must eat it at this very moment. I love dirty rice, and freekah is awesome, (besides being so fun to say). This was an fantastic adventure. I totally dig it.

  13. There are so many great flavors in this dish – it looks amazing!

  14. Oh, not one but two recipe swap posts with freekeh! I’ve never made freekeh before, but I’m certainly inspired to try it now. This recipe looks fabulous!

  15. Oh Nomnivorous. I’ll admit to having a soft spot for you ever since you called my kids cute in an SRC post. But your recipes definitely stand on their own. Especially when their titles sound like they just might be some kind of tongue in cheek double entendre. (as it turns out, this one was completely innocent and I was the one with the questionable thoughts). Well done, again.

  16. I can’t believe there were two of you using this mysterious grain! You are really inspiring me to go out and get myself some freaking freekah! Lol!

  17. I have never had freekeh! sounds like I would love it though! That issue of Bon Appetit has had me drooling!

  18. I think “dirty Pharaoh” is soon to be a cocktail and a term of endearment in my life. Yep… both of those things are impending 🙂 Great swappage!

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