A lesson in cereal grains is a must, and I think I might venture into that in the near future, since there are so many great hearty recipes that can be made from the different kinds, including my already-posted Marmahon! To best explain what bulgur is, though, I would like to start off by sharing some basic info on cereal foods. Cereal grains are considered staple crops all around the world. They include all the edible grains: rice, wheat, millet, & maize, among many more; and they constitute a majority of daily sustenance and account for a substantial worldwide consumption.
Bulgur is a particular cereal food made from a number of wheat species, making it a kind of dried cracked wheat. Pale-brown & pointy-shaped, its made by par-boiling, drying, and then coarsely grinding wheat berries. It’s most common in European, Indian, & Middle Eastern cuisines, particularly Armenian & Turkish. Not to be confused with cracked wheat – an often interchangeably used term – bulgur is sold in parboiled & dried (having been already steamed & milled) medium grade as well as a coarse grade varieties. It has lots of fiber, protein, and higher levels of most of the vitamins & minerals found in grains. But the difference between bulgur and its other wheat flour counterparts is that bulgur hasn’t been stripped of its bran and germ, which is where many of the nutrients are actually stored within a whole grain.
Lovely as an alternative for rice or couscous in any dish, some of the more traditional recipes for bulgur are the popular Middle Eastern salad Taboulleh and Lebanese kibbeh. It is popularly added to soups, rissoles, stuffed vegetables, and salads. This was our first bout with bulgur, so I decided to keep it simple & clean, complementing it with some delicious chicken with lemon & olives.
For the Bulgur
- 1 cup of medium grain bulgur
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
For this particular recipe, the bulgur needs to be prepared soft & fluffy. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Stir in bulgur and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain if necessary. Transfer to a large serving bowl and toss with olive oil.
For the Chicken with Lemon & Olives
- 2 pounds (1kg) of chicken parts
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon of powdered saffron
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup of chopped onion
- 1 red bell pepper, julienned
- 2 cups (480ml) of water
- A few sprigs of parsley
- 1 small lime, thickly sliced
- 1 cup of olives, halved
Combine the chicken with all the ingredients except the vegetable oil, water, lemon, olives & bulgur. Marinate for about an hour, moving around from time to time. In a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, heat the vegetable oil and add the chicken. Brown all over, cooking in batches if necessary. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the onion & red bell pepper to the pot and char. Add the water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the parsley and the rest of the chicken and simmer gently until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Add the lime slices and olives, and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve over the bulgur with plenty of liquid and sprinkle with parsley or cilantro and an additional drizzle of lemon.