Burghul (Arabic; also known as bulghur or bulgur, which is Turkish) is hulled wheat that has been partially cooked by steaming, then dried and ground. Although the outer layers of bran are removed, the inner layers are kept intact, making burghul an extremely nutritious food. It contains B1 niacin, phosphorus, iron and copper, and is a good source of complex carbohydrate. Before using, rinse burghul well. To use in salads, soak 1 cup of rinsed burghul in 2 cups of boiling water. Stir, cover, and leave for 1 hour. Drain thoroughly, patting dry with paper towels.
Mixing burghul with yoghurt can make a really easy, delicious and nutritious salad – you don’t even need to soak or cook the burghul for this. Rinse the burghul well under running water, drain it, then mix in a bowl with plenty of unsweetened yoghurt. Add salt, pepper, crushed garlic and mint and leave for one hour. Fluff it up with a fork then leave three hours before serving. It’s fabulous with mezze of all kinds, and vegetable fritters, olives, pita pockets, chicken and fish dishes.
Burghul can be prepared quickly by steaming or boiling and used in a variety of ways. Its most well known dish is probably the Middle Eastern salad tabbouleh, which is made with burghul, lots of chopped parsley, chopped tomatoes and onion, garlic, mint, lemon juice and olive oil. To make this dish successfully, the tomatoes must be drained of their watery liquid, and a good balance struck between the fresh acidity of lemon, racing freshness of mint, the fresh grass taste of parsley and the pungency of onion set against the nutty-tasting burghul and rich taste of fruity olive oil.
Burghul makes a simple pilaf, flavoured with spices or with onions and garlic, which can be used in place of potatoes, rice or pasta.
Mixed with cooked onions, garlic and fresh herbs, it makes a tasty stuffing for vegetables and meat. And it can be mixed with minced meat and shaped into meatballs and fried.
Perhaps my favourite way of using burghul is in a stuffing, flavoured with the rich tang of apricots and earthy taste of prunes. Adding cinnamon and nutmeg and the zest of an orange turns this into an exotic stuffing which is delicious inside a roasted chicken.
Burghul, like many grains, is best eaten fresh. Store it airtight and use it up quickly. Use coarsely ground burghul for stuffing dishes, and finely ground burghul for salads such as tabbouleh.
Organically grown and produced burghul is available in specialist food shops. See Spring Burghul Salad