Friday, March 18, 2011

In the U.S., bulgur isn’t as commonly used as say brown rice.

However, in Turkey and in the Middle East, this hearty, nutty grain is quite popular. In the states, you might have tried it in the classic Lebanese dish known as Tabouleh.

Bulgur comes from wheat kernels that have been par-boiled, dried and then crushed. Here, bulgur comes in two forms - finely ground (köftelik bulgur) or coarse ground (pilavlık bulgur). I’ve often eaten the grain here as a side dish of bulgur pilaf, cooked with tomato paste, onions and maybe green peppers, that accompanied a meat kebap. Bulgur also is used to make a variety of mezzes and main dishes such as çiğ köfte, içli köfte and ezogelin soup.

Before moving to Turkey, I had used bulgur to make a variety of soups, especially when I was on a high-fiber, low-fat kick for awhile. This nutritious grain has more fiber and protein than brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and barley. One cup (approx. 180 grams) of cooked bulgur contains 8 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and only 150 calories.

But the other day I wanted to try making a Turkish recipe with bulgur called Bulgur Pilaf with Mushrooms (Mantarlı Bulgur Pilavlı). This recipe comes from a new cookbook I received as a gift and am currently reading called “The Dervish Table: The Sufi Culinary Culture and Table Manners” by Sahrap Soysal. It’s an interesting book and I’m learning more about the sacred role of food as well as the history of the cuisines eaten and cooked by the Sufis - a religious order of Muslims who represented the mystical dimension of Islam.

In the cookbook, Soysal writes “Eating pilaf from the same bowl, that meant unity and accord, was a widespread custom in the lodges.”

The bulgur recipe is quite simple and similar to making a rice pilaf. I, of course, adapted the recipe a bit to suit my tastes. I served it as a side-dish with dijon mustard-yogurt chicken breasts for dinner.

Instead of boring rice or over-rated cous cous, try using some bulgur next time in your kitchen.

Afiyet olsun!

Bulgur Pilaf with Mushrooms (Mantarlı Bulgur Pilavlı)
Adapted from “The Dervish Table” by Sahrap Soysal

11/2 c. (330 g.) coarse bulgur, rinsed and strained
3 c.    (750 ml.) warm chicken or meat stock
2 T.+ olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped small
5-6 ea. cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 ea. small Turkish green pepper, chopped small
10 ea. (200 g.) small button mushrooms, sliced
TT salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh dill

1. In a 4-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and green pepper and saute’ for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute’ for a few more minutes.
3. Then, add the bulgur and cook for about 4 more minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Pour in the warm stock. Season with a little salt and pepper, and stir again.
5. Cover the pot with a lid, and cook until the pilaf has absorbed all the liquid, about 15 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat. Let the pilaf rest for five minutes before serving.
7. Taste the pilaf and adjust the seasonings as needed. Drizzle a bit more olive oil over the pilaf and garnish with several sprigs of fresh dill.

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Julia said...

Bulgur served with chicken is one of my favourite meals! They go so well together. Your cookery book sounds really interesting. We need to invest in some new books next time we're in Istanbul. We don't have anywhere in Fethiye to buy cookery books. :(