Koftas, spicy breakfast oats and lamb timballo: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for freekeh

Yotam Ottolenghi’s freekeh and oat porridge with fried egg and ginger oil.

Freekeh, with its coarse texture and earthy, nutty flavour, is the grain I’m drawn to at this time of the year. As the evenings close in, this toasted wheat has a smokiness and heft that just feels right. It also loves to absorb the flavour of anything with which it shares a pot, so play around with it, especially if it’s not a grain you know that well: it’s great in all sorts of soups and stuffings, pilafs and one-pot dishes.

Freekeh and mushroom kofta with green sauce (pictured top)

This untraditional take on kofta is a bit involved, but the final product is very tasty and, nestled alongside rice and salad, say, makes a fantastic vegetarian option. Don’t make the sauce until you are ready to serve, or it will lose its colour.

Prep 15 min
Cool 2 hr
Cook 90 min
Serves 4 as a starter or as part of a meze spread

For the kofta
150g cracked freekeh
Fine sea salt and black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
200g portobello mushrooms
, finely chopped
2 shallots (70g), peeled and finely chopped (70g)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp white miso paste
25g panko breadcrumbs
50g mature cheddar
, coarsely grated
25g tomato ketchup
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp plain flour
150g thick-set Greek yoghurt
, to serve

For the green sauce
50g baby spinach
10g coriander
30g pickled jalapeños
2 tbsp lime juice
40ml olive oil

Put the freekeh and a quarter-teaspoon of salt in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-high and simmer, stirring occasionally and topping up with more boiling water if need be, for 35 minutes, until the freekeh is soft but still has a slight bite. Drain through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside for about an hour, to cool completely.

While the freekeh is cooling, put a medium frying pan on a high heat, add a teaspoon and a half of the vegetable oil, the mushrooms and quarter-teaspoon of salt, and fry, stirring frequently, for seven minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, another teaspoon and a half of vegetable oil and a good grind of pepper, and cook, stirring regularly, for another five minutes, until softened and browned. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool.

Put the cooled freekeh, the cooled mushroom mix and all the remaining kofta ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for a minute on a medium-high speed, so it comes together into a wet, well-bound mixture. Mould into a 40g torpedo-shaped koftas, put these on a tray or large plate lined with greaseproof paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Line a large roasting tray with greaseproof paper and brush it all over with another teaspoon and a half of vegetable oil. Heat the oven to 230C (210C fan)/450F/gas 8 and put the lined and greased tray on the top shelf to warm up for five minutes. Take out the tray, arrange the koftas on top and brush with the remaining teaspoon and a half of vegetable oil. Bake for 25 minutes, then gently flip over the koftas and bake for 10 minutes more, until deeply browned and slightly burst. Remove and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the green sauce: put all the ingredients in a blender with a tablespoon of water and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, blitz smooth, then transfer to a small bowl.

Spread the yoghurt on a large platter, top with the koftas, drizzle over a few spoonfuls of green sauce and serve with the rest on the side for dipping.

Freekeh and oat porridge with crisp fried egg and ginger oil

Yotam Ottolenghi’s freekeh and oat porridge with fried egg and ginger oil.

This makes a very comforting breakfast on dark winter days. If you want to get ahead, make the porridge and oil the day before; just add a splash of water when reheating.

Prep 25 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 4

100g cracked freekeh
50g rolled oats
20g ghee
, or butter
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
¼ tsp ground turmeric
Fine sea salt and black pepper
½ tsp lemon juice
4-6 eggs

2 tbsp olive oil

For the ginger oil
90ml olive oil
20g ginger
, peeled and finely grated
½ tsp chilli flakes
3 tsp aleppo chilli

For the garlic spinach
1 tbsp olive oil
400g spinach
4 garlic cloves
, peeled and crushed
4 spring onions, finely chopped at an angle

Put a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat, add the freekeh, oats and ghee, and toast, stirring often, for two to three minutes, until it turns lightly golden and smells nutty. Pour in the stock and 500ml water, then stir in the turmeric, a half-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes, until the mix has thickened to the consistency of loose porridge. Stir in the lemon juice, cover the pan and set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the ginger oil. Put a medium frying pan on a medium heat, add the 90ml olive oil, ginger and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and cook for two or three minutes, until fragrant and slightly bubbling. Stir in the chilli flakes and aleppo chilli, then pour into a small bowl or jar and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

To make the spinach, wipe the frying pan clean and put it on a high heat. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and a third of the spinach, cook for 30 seconds, until just wilted, then stir in all the garlic. Add the rest of the spinach in two batches, stirring well and often to stop the garlic catching, then add a quarter-teaspoon of salt and the spring onions, cook for another 30 seconds, then take off the heat.

To make the eggs, put a large frying pan on medium-high heat and, once it’s hot, add the two tablespoons of olive oil. Carefully crack in the eggs, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper, and fry for two or three minutes, until the whites have set and the bottoms are golden and crisp. With a spatula, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper.

To assemble the dish, divide the porridge between four shallow bowls, put an egg on top and spoon on the spinach mix. Drizzle over a teaspoon of the ginger oil and serve with the rest on side.

Lamb and freekeh timballo

Yotam Ottolenghi’s lamb and freekeh timballo.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s lamb and freekeh timballo.

This take on the classic Sicilian pasta bake is a fantastic, dinner-party centrepiece that balances the smoky aroma of the freekeh, the sour cherries and the rich lamb. Serve with rice and/or salad.

Prep 30 min
Cook 2 hr
Serves 6

150g cracked freekeh
250g lamb mince
– 20% fat works best here
Fine sea salt and black pepper
1 onion
, peeled and finely chopped (160g)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ tsp ground allspice
¾ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp paprika
2 tbsp tomato paste
75g dried sour cherries
, roughly chopped (if you can’t find them, dried cranberries will work, too)
750ml chicken stock
40g parsley
, roughly chopped
2 eggs, beaten
3 aubergines, trimmed and cut lengthways into 3mm-thick slices
2 tbsp olive oil
10g room-temperature unsalted butter

10g coarse polenta
60ml tahini
120g natural yoghurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
10g mint leaves
, chopped
3 Lebanese cucumbers (420g), peeled and diced (380g; the same weight of diced baby or regular cucumbers will also work)

Put the freekeh in a large saucepan on a medium-high heat and toast, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until fragrant and nutty. Tip into a medium bowl and set aside.

Return the pan to a medium-high heat, add the mince and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until brown and crisping up. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned lamb to the freekeh bowl, leaving as much fat in the pan as possible. Put the pan back on the heat, add the onions and garlic, and saute in the lamb fat, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until translucent. Stir in the spices, tomato paste and a half-teaspoon of salt, cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes, then tip the freekeh and lamb back in the pan and stir in the cherries and stock. Leave to simmer, stirring often, for 30 minutes,until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the mix is a deep red colour. Take off the heat, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then stir in half the chopped parsley, the eggs and 10 grinds of pepper.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Put the sliced aubergines in a large bowl with the olive oil and a half-teaspoon of salt and toss to coat evenly. Line two trays with greaseproof paper and lay the aubergine slices out flat (depending on their size, you may need a third tray). Roast for 25 minutes, turning once, then remove and leave to cool slightly.

Grease a 20cm cake tin with the butter, then sprinkle over the polenta to coat the bottom and sides. Layer the aubergine slices in a concentric circle around the inside edge of the tin, so they overlap slightly and leave a 2cm overhang, then lay three or four slices in the bottom of the tin so the inside is completely covered with aubergine, a bit like a tart case.

Spoon the freekeh mixture into the tin, spread it out evenly, then fold the overhanging aubergine over the filling and use the remaining slices to cover the top like a lid. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

While the timballo is baking, whisk the tahini, yoghurt and lemon juice in a bowl, then stir in the mint, cucumbers, remaining parsley and a quarter-teaspoon of salt.

Put a large, lipped platter on top of the cake tin and quickly and carefully invert it to turn out the timballo. Serve with the cucumber yoghurt on the side.