Freekeh with Lamb & Rhubarb

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Freekeh is my number one grain. The wheat is harvested young when the grains are soft and full of moisture. The grain is then sun-dried before being roasted over an open fire for several minutes. Once cooled, it’s rubbed to separate it from the chaff. It can be purchased cracked or whole, and will often require careful cleaning to rid it of any stones.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes, plus making the stock
Cooking Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 30 g/1 oz/2 tbsp salted butter
  • 240 g/ oz pearl onions or small shallots, peeled
  • 900 g/2 lb lamb shank(s)
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes or crushed chilli flakes
  • 5 cm/2 in piece of root ginger, peeled and chopped very finely
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed with the blade of a knife
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp coriander seeds
  • 2.5 l/88 fl oz/10½ cups Vegetable Stock
  • 400 g/14 oz/ cups wholegrain freekeh or wholegrain farro, rinsed well
  • 250 g/9 oz rhubarb, cut into 2.5cm/1in lengths
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 30 g/1 oz/scant ¼ cup blanched almonds
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander/cilantro leaves, to sprinkle
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Greek yogurt, to serve

Method

  1. Melt 20 g/¾ oz/4 teaspoons of the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium–low heat, and fry the pearl onions for 3–4 minutes until golden. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.
  2. Rub the lamb shank(s) all over with the allspice and Aleppo pepper flakes and season to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer to the saucepan.
  3. Return the onions to the pan, and sear the onions and lamb until browned all over. Remove the shank and set aside on a plate.
  4. Add half the remaining butter to the pan, along with the ginger, garlic, bay leaf and coriander seeds, and cook for 1 minute or so until aromatic. Return the lamb shank and pour over 1 l/35 fl oz/4⅓ cups of the stock, then cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1¾ hours, turning the shank around a couple of times during the cooking time.
  5. Meanwhile, put the freekeh in a saucepan and pour over the remaining stock, then cover the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for about 45 minutes or until the stock has been absorbed and the grains are cooked through but still have a slight bite to them. If the grains have not cooked through in this time, but the stock has been absorbed, add a little water as needed. Once cooked, set aside, covered, until ready to serve.
  6. Just before the lamb stew finishes cooking, melt the remaining butter in a pan over a medium heat, add the rhubarb and toss to combine, then cook for 4 minutes until just beginning to soften.
  7. Spoon the rhubarb into the lamb stew and toss well, then remove the stew from the heat and leave it to sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
  8. Toast the pine nuts and almonds in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes until golden and fragrant, shaking the pan often.
  9. Transfer the freekeh to a serving plate, top with the lamb and rhubarb, sprinkle with the nuts and coriander/cilantro and serve with yogurt.