Category Archives: Middle Eastern

Macedonian Wheat Berry Stew

Macedonian Wheat Berry Stew

Macedonian Wheat Berry Stew

Wheat berries are whole kernels of wheat – the part that gets ground up to make whole-wheat flour. They are commonly eaten whole in the Middle East, and often show up in stews like this one. (I am lumping this type of dish, from the Balkans, into the category of Middle Eastern cuisine because its primary ingredients and flavors are more closely related to Middle Eastern foods than to European cuisines.) Their chewy texture is somewhat different from the grains most Americans are used to, but they are tasty, filling, and cheap.

However, they aren’t commonly eaten in the U.S., and so they may be hard to get your hands on. Food co-ops in the Twin Cities all sell them in bulk bins, and other grocery and health-food stores with a good bulk selection should carry them as well. They can also be found packaged through the Bob’s Red Mill brand (either online or in some grocery stores), which carries specialty grains, beans, etc. If you can find them in bulk, they should be one of the cheapest foods you can buy – organic wheat berries are $1.19/lb. at my food co-op. (If, however,  you can’t find them at all, you can substitute cooked barley or rice.)

Wheat Berries

Uncooked wheat berries

Wheat berries come in hard and soft varieties, which basically differ only in their protein content. Any kind of wheat berry should be fine here. Similar to beans, wheat berries take a while to cook (90 minutes, or 30 in a pressure cooker), and require a pre-soak. However, once they’re cooked, this recipe comes together very quickly.

I’ve adapted this stew from a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey. The original recipe calls for this stew to be used as stuffing for a stuffed tomato dish. I think it’s plenty tasty enough to be served all on its own. I generally serve it with plain yogurt, either mixed in or on the side, to give it an extra kick of flavor and protein.

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Macedonian Wheat Berry Stew (adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook)

1 1/2 cups wheat berries
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2-3 green chiles, chopped/minced
1/2 bunch parsley (stems and leaves), chopped/minced
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried rosemary, very finely crushed in a mortar and pestle or using your fingers
1 tsp. salt or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Plain yogurt, for serving (optional, but tasty)

Soak the wheat berries for at least 8 hours in 12 cups of water. Cook in the same water, either on the stove for ~90 minutes, or in a pressure cooker for 30. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and then drain in a colander.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion and garlic for five minutes or so, until softened. Add the chopped chiles and canned tomatoes, and simmer for another 3 minutes. Add the drained wheat berries, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and 1 cup reserved wheat berry cooking water. Bring to a quick simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, stirring often. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with several spoonfuls of plain yogurt mixed into the stew, or a bowl of yogurt on the side.

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Cost of core ingredients: Primarily organic and purchased at my food co-op.

1/2 lb. wheat berries @ $1.19/lb = $0.60
1 onion = ~$1.20
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes = $2.49
2 green chiles = ~$0.16
1/2 bunch parsley = $1.00
1/2 tub of plain yogurt for serving (I will use the rest elsewhere) = $1.40

Total for at least 4 servings: $6.85 + the cost of small amounts of olive oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper.

Macedonian Wheat Berry Stew

Served with yogurt

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Middle Eastern, Recipes, Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wheat