Burghul

Burghul

By
Greg Malouf, Lucy Malouf
Contains
3 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740667678
Photographer
William Meppem

Before tabbouleh took the world by storm, it is doubtful that there were many people outside the Middle East who even knew what burghul was. Even today, while recognising it as the little sand-coloured flecks in tabbouleh, not many of us have the first idea what else to do with it.

Burghul (or bulgar) is actually cracked wheat. To make it, grains are first boiled and then dried and roughly ground to produce the semi-processed wheat known as ‘burghul’. This can then be steamed or boiled, moistened with a little butter or oil, and served as an accompaniment to all kinds of stews and braises. Its texture is a little like brown rice, and it has a nutty, earthy flavour.

As Middle Easterners know, burghul can be almost as versatile as rice. It is a prominent staple, traditionally considered peasant food (city sophisticates would mainly eat rice) and it features in everything from pilafs, stuffings and salads, as well as being a key ingredient in the Lebanese national dish, kibbeh.

Devotees of Lebanese restaurants know all about kibbeh. These are the little torpedo-shaped patties of meat stuffed into a crispy shell of burghul. The art of kibbeh making is the stuff of legend, and much is made of those special women favoured with ‘kibbeh fingers’. Less well known outside Lebanon is kibbeh nayeh, which is a sort of Middle Eastern version of steak tartare. This uses the best quality lamb, pounded or minced to a fine paste with onion, burghul and spices, and served with a drizzle of fruity olive oil, salad onions, fresh mint and plenty of Arabic bread.

There are numerous versions of tabbouleh found all around the Mediterranean. In Turkey, for instance, they make a version called ‘kisir’, which includes green peppers and cucumber and is sometimes sharpened with pomegranate juice or verjuice (unripened grape juice) instead of lemon juice.

Selecting, storing and using burghul

Burghul comes in several different grades and colours. The coarsest grade is usually cooked like rice, and used to make pilafs and stuffings. The finest grade is used in salads such as tabbouleh, where it is moistened and allowed to swell in a lemony dressing. In Middle Eastern stores you may also find that burghul is available bleached or unbleached. However, the colour of the burghul doesn’t affect the flavour of the dish, so choose whichever you prefer the look of.

Fine burghul, which is what you use in tabbouleh, needs only minimal pre-soaking. The grains should be thoroughly rinsed in cold water and then allowed to soak for about 10 minutes to soften slightly. You then need to drain them well – tip them into a tea-towel and twist it tightly to extract as much excess water as you can.

For stuffings and pilafs, coarser burghul is cooked in the same way as rice. Like rice, it is better to measure both water and grain by volume rather than by weight – the ratio being 1.5 water to 1 burghul.

Recipes in this Chapter

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