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Bulgur

Coarse Bulgur WheatBulgur (sometimes known as burghul or burghoul) is
a quick-cooking form of whole wheat that has been cleaned, parboiled, dried, ground into particles and sifted into distinct sizes. The result is a nutritious, versatile wheat product with a pleasant, nut-like flavour and an extended shelf-life that allows it to be stored for long periods.

Often confused with cracked wheat, bulgur differs in that it has been pre-cooked.

Making wheat into bulgur is an ancient process that originated in the Mediterranean and has been an integral part of Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years. Biblical references indicate it was prepared by ancient Babylonians, Hittites and Hebrew populations some 4,000 years ago, and Arab, Israeli, Egyptian, and Roman civilizations record eating dried cooked wheat as early as 1,000 B.C.

The Roman word for it was cerealis; Israelites called it dagan. Other Middle Easterners called it arisah, which is how it was referred to in the Bible. Biblical scholars translate arisah as "the first of the coarse meal" and, according to Biblical archeologists, was a porridge or gruel prepared from parboiled and sun-dried wheat.

Bulgur resists mold contamination and attack by insects and can be stored for long periods of time.Today, bulgur is much loved in Armenia and Syria, as well as amongst the Kurds. In Kurdish villages, par-boiled wheat grains are partially sun-dried and then put into large stone mortars, and cracked with enormous wooden mallets. After cracking the hardened kernels into coarse pieces, they are seived into different sizes for various uses.

This process of making bulgur is quite ingenious. Not only does the par-boiling dramatically reduce the amount of time and fuel needed to cook the wheat, but it also has the effect of driving certain nutrients from the less digestible outer layers into the centre of the grain, making them more accessible.

Although making bulgur has developed into a modern, mechanized manufacturing process, the same basic ancient steps of preparation are still followed today.

For an extensive list of CEREAL AND GRAIN terminology in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada, click here.

This is my version of a delicious, hearty and warming bulgur recipe from Kurdistan. Tomatoes and sweet peppers are lightly stir fried, then cooked with the bulgur in a vegetable stock. The bulgur absorbs the liquid as it cooks and as it simmers in the stock, it absorbs flavours from the vegetables. The dish is ready in less than twenty minutes – light, fluffy, nutty-flavoured grains punctuated with colourful pieces of tomatoes and capsicums.

Turkish Bulgur Wheat Pilaf ( Bulgur Pilavi)

Preparation and cooking time: 30 – 40 minutes
Makes enough for 4 – 6 persons.

4 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or a combination of both
½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder
1½ cups diced green capsicums
¾ cup peeled chopped tomatoes
2¼ cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups coarse bulgur wheat

Melt the butter in a heavy, non-stick 2-litre saucepan over moderate heat. Sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder, saute momentarily, and then add the green capsicums and tomatoes.

Cook the vegetables for ten minutes, or until the tomatoes break down and soften.

Add the vegetable stock and salt, raise the heat and bring to the boil. Stir in the bulgur, return to the boil, and stirring, allow it to boil for one more minute.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer with a tight-fitting lid for 5 to 10 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Place the saucepan, still covered, on a heat diffuser or some other warm surface, or alternatively place it in a warm oven wrapped in a towel for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the grains are fluffy, fully expanded and firm.

Serve hot.

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