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Let your freekeh flag fly in the kitchen

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The supergrain of the future comes from our distant past, says Ruth Nieman, author of the recently published cookbook titled Freekeh, wild wheat and ancient grains.

Ancient wild wheat cereal, freekeh has become famous all over the world.

In her cookbook, Nieman not only shares recipes for freekeh bread, salads, and soups, but she also dives into the history, culture, and traditions of grain crops that originated in the Middle East.

“They were the staples of the hunter-gatherer ancestors of the Fertile Crescent,” Nieman told ISRAEL21c, referring to the historical Middle East region that includes parts of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and the Middle East. ‘Iraq.

Ruth Nieman at a signing session in the UK for ‘Freekeh, Wild Wheat and Ancient Grains’. Photo courtesy of Ruth Nieman

Freekeh is young durum wheat harvested while still green and then smoked or roasted. It resembles spelled and bulgur.

Nieman said this harvest was mentioned in the Bible, when Ruth gleaned wheat from Boaz’s field in Bethlehem. Muslim caliphs used to cook squabs stuffed with freekeh, Nieman said.

Indeed, in her research with the help of archaeologists, archaeo-botanists and culinary historians, she came across a recipe from the 13th century.

vegan/vegetarian

Since many people around the world are turning to plant-based diets for health and sustainability reasons, Nieman has made all of the recipes in his book vegan or vegetarian.

Although she’s not a vegan or vegetarian herself, when creating recipes, she says, “it’s easier to add a piece of chicken to a dish, say, than to take ingredients out of it.”

Freekeh is the star of this Arabic salad from Ruth Nieman’s cookbook. Photo courtesy of Ruth Nieman

These days Nieman, 58, splits his time between Israel and the UK. She spent many years living at Kibbutz Amiad in the Galilee. She fondly recalls “when 500 people would eat three meals together in the dining room every day, which bonded them.”

Upon her return to England, she worked as a nurse for 15 years. In her late thirties, she changed careers and trained to become a chef, running a successful catering business.

Having lived in Israel where the food is so delicious, she wanted to bring this cuisine back to England. She soon wrote about the food she prepared.

His first book, Galilean cuisinewhich she self-published, won a Gourmand Cookbook Award in 2018. Her new book was shortlisted for the 2021 Andre Simon Prize.

“My vision of food has always been fresh and Middle Eastern,” she said. “British food isn’t as healthy as Middle Eastern food, and I wanted to introduce more flavor and freshness.”

Less gluten

Freekeh and other ancient grains contain less gluten than the amount of modern processed wheat, Nieman said. Although not safe for people with celiac disease, freekeh is milder and easier to digest and can be consumed by people with mild gluten intolerance.

Health food stores now sell freekeh and spelled, she said, and artisan bakers have started using these grains.

“These ancient grains are now on the international food map,” she said.

Smoking freekeh in the wheat fields of Sachnin, Israel. Photo by Neil Mercer

During his visits to Israel, Nieman likes to look for edible asparagus, leaves and flowers. She said she is one of many people who want to “know their ground and what comes from the ground”.

Nieman said she started catering because she liked the idea of ​​sharing food. She believes food should be a neutral platform.

“When it comes to food, it doesn’t matter your religion or your politics,” she said.

“Learning about different foods and flavors is so interesting to me,” she said. “Much of Middle Eastern cuisine, whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian, is passed down from generation to generation, through our mothers and grandmothers.”

“That’s the nice part of it,” she added. “By keeping their recipes alive, we keep their memories alive.”

To buy the book Click here.