Freekeh Soup with Tiny Meatballs and Braised Greens

2013 Sep/Oct

Freekeh is a type of wheat that is picked when it’s still young and green, then it’s cracked and lightly smoked. The chewy texture and subtle smokey flavour are completely addictive and worth seeking out. Freekeh is available at most Middle Eastern grocers like Basha International Foods.


  • 3/4 lb. ground lamb or beef
  • 2 small shallots, finely grated
  • 2 T. chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 t. allspice
  • kosher salt and chile flakes to taste
  • flour for dusting the meatballs
  • 6 T. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely diced
  • 1 small tin whole tomatoes
  • 1 T. ras el hanout (optional), a Moroccan spice blend
  • 1 T. ground coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 T. honey
  • 3/4 c. cracked freekeh, or medium bulgur
  • kosher salt and chile flakes to taste
  • 1 L. chicken stock
  • 1 large bunch kale, or any leafy green, roughly chopped


In a medium sized bowl, combine the lamb, shallot, parsley, allspice and a hearty pinch each of salt and chile flakes. Mix well and form the mixture into meatballs that can be as small as you like but shouldn’t be any bigger than a ping-pong ball. Put the meatballs on a baking sheet and sprinkle them lightly with flour, shaking the pan to coat them.

Preheat a soup pot over medium-high and cook the meatballs in 3 T. of the olive oil. You may need to cook them in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. When the meatballs are evenly browned, tip them out onto a plate and set aside. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and sauté the onion, garlic, carrot and fennel for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes, crushing them into the pot with your hands, followed by the ras el hanout, coriander, cinnamon stick and honey. Add the freekeh and season well with salt and chile flakes, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, 3 cups of water and the meatballs. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, add the chopped kale and cook for 30-45 minutes. The freekeh should be tender but still slightly chewy, and the soup should be fairly thick, so reduce it down or add more stock as necessary.

Serves 4 to 6.