Freekeh with Slow Roasted Lamb Shanks

Freekeh (فريكة roughly translated, Rubbed) is a type of wheat grain common in the Levant, Egypt, Turkey and parts of North Africa. Freekeh grains have a distinct nutty smokey flavour due to the preparation method. Traditionally freekeh is cooked as pilaf or soup but it is a versatile ingredients and can be utilised in numerous ways from salads to cereal bars.

To make freekeh, wheat is harvested green. This is then arranged in piles and set on fire. This is a tightly controlled process and only the straw and chaff burns while the high water content in the green grains prevents them from burning. This process gives freekeh its distinct smokiness. The grains are then thrashed and rubbed by hand (hence the name) to separate the chaff. The final step is drying the grains in the sun.

In Syria, freekeh is cooked as a pilaf with cooked chicken or lamb. Shanks (or
Mozat as called in Syria) is a favourite cut to serve with freekeh. However Mozat is of-the-bone cut and it is served braised rather than roasted.

You can buy freekeh in London from Middle Easter supermarkets. Try Green Valley in Edgware Road or Damas Gate in Shepherds Bush.

Today's recipe is my take on the traditional
Freekeh with Mozat. I cooked freekeh the traditional way but I roasted the lamb shanks in the oven with Arabic style flavours. I also like to raost some vegetables with the meat; potato, caroot... anything you like really.

Here is my Freekeh with lamb shanks recipe:

4 Lamb shanks
One potato
Two Carrots
Mushrooms 200g
Olive oil 2-3 tbsp
Black pepper 1tsp
Salt 2tsp
Paprika 2tsp
Chilli powder 1tsp
Allspice 2tsp
Juice of half a lemon

For the freekeh:
Freekeh 2 cups
Chicken stock 2 cups (stock cube are a good alternative)
Boiling water 2 cups
Green peas 200g
Pine nuts 30g
Ghee clarified butter 2-3 tbs (leave out for a healthy version, it adds a great flavour though!)

Heat the oven to 200C.

Mix the oil, lemon juice and all the spices to make a spicy rub with Arabic flavours. Rub the mixture into the shanks to cover completely and get some of the mix into the muscle fibres. Arrange the shanks in a deep roasting tin bone side up. Cut the potato and carrots into chunky cubes and add with the mushrooms to the tin around the shanks. If you have any spice mix left drizzle over the vegetable. Otherwise season with salt and pepper. Add a little water to the tin to prevent the spice mix from burning.

Cover the tin with foil and roast on the high heat for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170C and continue cooking for another 120 - 150 minutes. Take the foil off for the last 45 minutes. After you take the foil off paste the meat with juices from the tin every 15 minuets or so to stop it drying.

Wash the freekeh in a large bowl. The burnt grains and any residual chaff will float on top. Pour away with the water. You don't need to get rid of every floating grain. You need the smokey flavour they give. Soak the freekeh in cold water for 30 minutes.

In a heavy bottom pan add the freekeh, water and stock. Bring to hard boil then turn the heat to medium and cook for around 30 - 45 minutes. Taste the freekeh to make sure it is fully cooked. The texture should be a bit al dente. If the pot is getting too dry add a little bit of boiling water. Add the peas 5 - 10 minutes from the end (I cooked them for longer than I should in the picture above).

While the freekeh is cooking fry the pine nuts (and some almonds if you wish) in the Ghee butt till golden brown. Remove the nuts quickly before they burn. Preserve the butter for later.

Once you are ready to serve heat the butter until smoking hot. Pour very carefully over the freekeh put and mix through.

Serve the shank on a bed of freekeh with the vegetable on the side. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top.

Serve with some yogurt or Syrian style Tzatziki.


Maysaloon said...

I've been mulling over cooking some Freekeh for some time so your post is particularly relevant to me at this moment in time. I've already become quite good at making dishes like Mjadara and Ma2loubeh so Freekeh will be the latest addition to my bachelor's repertoire of tasty and easy dishes to make.

By the way, just as a note, pine nuts are split into two varieties. There is the stout, Chinese style, variety and that is different to the longer variety we are used to in the Middle East. The Chinese variety is available in most regular supermarkets in the UK but the Middle Eastern variety seem to only be in Green Valley and sometimes in Waitrose. I can't detect too big a difference in taste but aesthetically the bigger pine nuts seem truer to the image of the dish. I don't know what your thoughts are on that.

Kano said...


If you are cooking freekeh for yourself you don't need to do the roasting of the lamb shanks for hours. You can make a simpler version if you wish with cooked meat or chicken.

The pine nuts question was on my mind for a while. I always thought the Syrian pine nuts are the long thin ones you mentioned Then I asked a shop owner in Bzourieh souk in Damascus. He told me, to my surprise, that the Syrian native pine nuts (Baladi) is actually short and fat like the supermarket variety you buy here in the UK. The thin long pine nuts we eat in Syria are imported from Iran.

I don't know if this is a fact but that is what I was told!

Maysaloon said...

Well on that note I know for a fact that in Green Valley they label them as "Lebanese Pine Nuts". What a conundrum :-)

Unknown said...


My name is Maya and I'm Palestinian/Syrian. I came across your blog a few days ago and I've been reading through it since the begining, and may I say I'm really impressed! Syrian cuisine is in great need to be advertised and shown to the world how great it really is. I've never lived in Syria but I wish I did. The majority of my family lives there. Reading through your posts makes me miss el-sham even more :) We (my husband, little girl and I) are visitng el-sham soon for a visit, and I can't wait to go and eat the best food in the world and be among the people I love. I thank you for your blog :) Well done and keep up the good work!


Unknown said...

And regarding your "Freeke" post, there is a place next to my grandparents' house in El-Sheikh Saad that makes AMAAAAZING Freeke, and I can't wait to go and eat some! I can't remember the shop's name, but both my husband and I love that place to bits!

Kano said...


Welcome to my blog. I am so happy you like it and it brings back nice memories of Damascus. It is a beautiful place, isn't it?

I need to find that place in Sheikh Saad. My parents house is in Mezzeh as well but in Eastern Villat.

If you remembered that place name let me know.

Maysa said...

That looks soo good, Freekeh is one of my favorite dishes. Thats a good idea for a 3azeemeh to serve it with lamb shanks, so much richer

Kano said...


You are absolutely right. When I have 3azemeh, I stick loads of lamb shanks in the oven for two three hours and cook a big pot of freekeh. Perfect!

Kano said...


Welcome to my blog and thank you for following.

I will take a look at you blog and the competition.

Property and Services said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
school canteens said...

yummyyyyyyy…..i can tell it is delicious, Will definitely try the Freekeh with Slow Roasted Lamb Shanks. Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Went to Syria about two years ago. Loved loved it. Beautiful Countryside and everyone so kind. My husband took me o eat in Latakia we had delicious very small Fried fish. We had gone back several times when there because they were so delicious. Do you know the name of these. Fish. My husband does not know the name in English. And I would love to find them in our import store here
Interesting web site will follow thanks. Rita

Kano said...


welcome to my blog and sosorry for the late reply. Very busy these days.

The fish you are after is most likely Sultan Ibrahim. It is a type of sea bream. Check this link

Post a Comment