Chorba Freek wa Djaj – Algerian Freekeh and Chicken Soup
Algerians love their chorba freek and this Brit does too. We have it almost every night during Ramadan to break our fasting, so technically it’s breakfast. Any other month of the year we eat it for lunch or dinner.
Freekeh is young wheat that is green and specially processed by sun drying and burning the husks, which gives it a smoky flavour. It has a low GI and low insulin response, high in fibre and high in protein approx, 60 percent higher than rice.
I had to make do with supermarket whole freekeh grains for this chorba or shorba, but if you can get hold of the North African crushed variety – like the one here, which my husband calls “real freek” it’s of better quality and gives the soup a slight smoky flavour. You could substitute some of the sweet paprika in the recipe for smoked to have a similar effect, however I’ve not tried this.
My husband or his friends bring us the ‘real freek’ back from their trips to London or Algeria. If you didn’t already know, there is a big Algerian community in London and a few shops, butchers and restaurants are owned by Algerians and / or selling Algerian and North African food etc. Also, a few years ago a sister in London kindly sent me a bag of Freekeh by post.
Chorba Freek wa Djaj
It’s rich and filling, especially if you drizzle it with olive oil and serve with bread as I did. To lighten and brighten the flavours in the soup, a good squeeze of lemon juice is highly recommended and you can always add more harissa for a spicy kick.
Algerian Freekeh and Chicken Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 500 grams halal chicken pieces, on the bone
- 1 onion, grated
- 1 branch of celery, washed and finely chopped
- 1 carrot, washed, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon harissa paste
- 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
- fine sea salt, to taste (for me, 1 teaspoon)
- 1 litres water
- 4 tablespoon freekeh
- handful of chickpeas, cooked (optional)
- 1 sprig of mint, leaves only (you can use more if you like)
- 1 small bunch of coriander, divided
- lemon wedges
- extra virgin olive oil
- In a large cooking pot warm olive oil over medium heat, add chicken pieces skin-side down and allow to cook a few minutes before turning. Brown chicken on all sides. Remove chicken and set aside. Meanwhile wash and chop coriander stems.
- In the same cooking pot over low-medium heat saute onion, carrot and celery until onion is translucent and soft. Add garlic and chopped coriander stems fry for 1 minutes. Add tomato purée cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring often. Add paprika, harissa salt and black pepper, return chicken and cook for another minute or so, again stirring often.
- Add water, increase heat and bring to boil then cover and reduce heat to a simmer allow to cook for 10 minutes before adding freekeh and cooking for another 30-40 minutes. Remove chicken from soup, take of the bone and shred then set aside. Take half of the soup and blend it along with mint leaves and coriander - this step is optional.
- Return blended soup along with shredded chicken and add chickpeas to the pot if using, re-heat for about 10 minutes.
- Serve warm with lemon wedges and olive oil on the side so that people can add a squeeze of lemon juice or drizzle of olive oil if desired.