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Burghul, the Noblest Food Achieved by Wheat

posted on: Jan 8, 2020

Burghul, the Noblest Food Achieved by Wheat

By: Habeeb Salloum/Arab America Contributing Writer

The hot Saskatchewan July wind made us uncomfortable as my brother and I went searching for wood scraps in the surrounding treeless prairie land. This was an important yearly task for us children in the age-old method of producing our yearly supply of burghul. We had to find enough wood to be able to boil two bushels of wheat until the kernels were cooked. For this, we needed all the fire material we could find.

However, finding the wood for cooking was only the first task in the making of burghul. After the wheat was well done, it had to be spread on white sheets in the sun to eliminate the moisture. When the kernels were bone-dry we took the cooked product to our neighbor for chopping. Back home, we removed the loose parts of the bran by willowing the crushed cooked wheat in the never-ending Saskatchewan wind. The burghul was then again placed in the sun until it became well dried.

Of course, as children, we never looked forward to our burghul making day. It was a time of backbreaking work-a period, if possible, to be avoided. How many times we children wished we were like our neighbors who did not know that burghul even existed.

In our modern times, this method of making burghul, which is called in the lands where it is a staple “the noblest food achieved by wheat,” is only a historic memory. In North America and almost all other countries where it is consumed, this first-rate wheat product is produced by machines and electrically controlled ovens. You can purchase burghul from any Middle Eastern store, some health food outlets and a good number of supermarkets in large cities.

This very versatile food, also known as bulgar, bulgur or bulgour, is believed to have been first eaten in the Euphrates Valley as far back as 5000 B.C. From that era in antiquity until our times, it has been on the daily menu of the peoples of the Middle East. In parts of Europe and North America, it has been only in the last few decades that burghul has become known to some extent by a segment of the population. Introduced by the Armenians, Syrians and other nationals from the Middle East, this delightful product of wheat is slowly becoming known among the general public in the western world.

In the last few years vegetarian and other health-conscious people have become convinced that burghul is an excellent health food. Research and experiences have proven to the health-conscious diners that this cereal has very few equals in food value. The cooking of the wheat preserves most of the nutrients, even when some of the bran is removed after the grain is crushed. The calcium, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B, and protein content are almost all retained. These are not lost even when burghul is stored for a long period of time. The cereal can be kept for years without loss of food value and any other type of deterioration.

Unexcelled as a nourishing eatable, burghul has more food energy than cornmeal; more iron than rice; less fat than uncooked wheat; six times more calcium than cornmeal and three times more than rice; and more vitamins than barley, cornmeal or rice.

Simple to prepare, this ancient food is an inexpensive, natural, wholesome and succulent versatile cereal. Often utilized as a replacement for rice, it is cooked in the same fashion as that grain, taking about 20 minutes to cook. Used in all types of dishes, it can be employed in every course and every meal of the day.

Burghul can be purchased in bulk or packaged. It comes in three sizes: coarse, medium and fine. The coarse is utilized in pottage dishes; the medium as an ingredient in salads; and the fine as the main component in vegetarian and other meat patties or as a breakfast cereal and as a principal element in some desserts.

One of the most preferred foods found in the Middle East, this wheat product is becoming familiar to people in other parts of the world. Easy to prepare and very delectable and nourishing, it is truly the noblest food achieved by wheat.

From the countless burghul dishes, we have selected these few for the uninitiated who wish to travel the culinary world of this healthy eatable.

Basic Burghul

Serves 4

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup coarse burghul, rinsed

2-1/4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a frying pan, melt the butter, and sauté burghul over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium/low heat for 25 minutes, stirring a number of times. Recover to make sure burghul does not stick to the bottom of the frying pan. Shut off heat and stir. Re-cover and allow to cook in your own steam for another 30 minutes. Serve as a side or main dish.

Burghul, the Noblest Food Achieved by Wheat

Burghul and Egg Soup

Serves 6 to 8

4 tablespoons cooking oil

1/2 pound ground meat, lamb or beef

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

1 small hot pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cup coarse burghul, rinsed

4 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon allspice

8 cups of water

2 eggs, beaten

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

In a saucepan, heat oil, sauté meat over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add onion, garlic, coriander leaves and hot pepper, stir-fry for a further 10 minutes. Stir in the burghul and stirfry for another 2 minutes, add tomato paste, salt, pepper, allspice, and water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes, stir in eggs, lemon juice, and mint and serve immediately.

Burghul, the Noblest Food Achieved by Wheat

Burghul and Chickpea Salad

Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup medium burghul, soaked for 10 minutes in warm water, then drained by pressing water out through a strainer

2 cups cooked chickpeas

2 cups finely chopped parsley

1 cucumber 6 to 8 inches long, peeled and finely chopped

1 large tomato, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

In a salad bowl, place burghul and all vegetables, thoroughly mix and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, then pour over the vegetables and toss just before serving.

Burghul, the Noblest Food Achieved by Wheat

Burghul and Cabbage Salad

Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup medium burghul, soaked for 10 minutes in warm water, then drained by pressing water out through a strainer

3 cups finely shredded cabbage

2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a salad bowl, place burghul and all vegetables, thoroughly mix and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients, pour over vegetables and toss just before serving.

* Burghul Pottage

Serves 4

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 pound beef or lamb, cut into very small pieces

2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 small hot pepper, very finely chopped

1 cup coarse burghul, rinsed

2 1/2 cups water

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cumin

In a frying pan, melt butter, sauté meat over medium heat until it begins to brown. Add onions, garlic and hot pepper, stir-fry for further 10 minutes. Add burghul, then stir-fry for another 3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, cover and cook over medium/low heat for 25 minutes, stirring a number of times then recovering to make sure burghul does not stick to the bottom of the frying pan. Shut off heat and stir and allow to cook in own steam for further 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Burghul with Fish Fillet

Serves 4 to 6

5 tablespoons butter

1 pound fish fillet (any kind), cut into 1 inch cubes

1 medium-sized onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup coarse burghul, rinsed

2 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

In a frying pan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter, sauté fish cubes over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the cubes begin to brown, turning them over once. Remove cubes; set aside to drain.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, add onion and garlic and stir-fry over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add burghul, stir-fry for a further 2 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to boil, cook over medium/low heat for 25 minutes, stirring a number of times re-covering to make sure burghul does not stick to the bottom of the frying pan. Place fish cubes evenly over the top and cover. Shut off the heat and allow to cook in your own steam for another 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Burghul, the Noblest Food Achieved by Wheat

Middle Eastern Meat Pie

Serves 6 to 8

In the Middle East, this dish is called kubbeh and is considered the king of all food. It is prepared in numerous ways. However, this version of the recipe is most common.

1-3/4 pounds lean beef or lamb

1 cup fine burghul, soaked for 10 minutes in warm water, drain by pressing out the water through a strainer

1 teaspoon dried mint

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 cups finely chopped onions

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons pine nuts

4 tablespoons cooking oil

Place 1-1/2 pounds of the meat in a food processor and process well, then add the burghul, mint, allspice, cumin, and 1 cup of the onions, 1-1/2 teaspoons of the salt and 3/4 teaspoon of the pepper, then process into a paste and set aside.

In a frying pan, melt butter. Sauté remaining ground meat over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add pine nuts, and the remaining onion, salt, and pepper, then stir-fry for a further 5 minutes and set aside.

Divide the paste into two equal portions, then flatten one portion evenly in a greased 8 × 10 to 13-inch pan. Spread frying pan contents evenly over top, then flatten a remaining portion of paste evenly over top. Cut into about 2-inch squares, then sprinkle oil over top. Bake in a 350°F preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the pie turns golden brown, then serve hot or cold.

Burghul and Pineapple Pudding

Serves 8 to 10

1 cup fine burghul, soaked for 10 minutes in warm water, then drained by pressing water out through a strainer

1 can crushed pineapple (19 oz.)

1-1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a casserole dish, place all ingredients; thoroughly mix. Bake uncovered in a 350°F preheated oven for 1 hour or until the top turns golden brown. Serve hot.

The homestead kitchen:

We love it when readers share some of their favorite recipes. Send yours to COUNTRYSIDE Editorial, 145 Industrial Dr., Medford, WI 54451. Or e-mail csyeditorial@tds.net.

Cabbage Soup

1 head of cabbage

6 large onions

2 green peppers

1 bunch celery

Cut all up into small pieces

Add:

1-28 ounce can tomatoes

1 packet onion soup mix

1 large can V-8 juice

Place into a large kettle, add enough water to cover. Simmer until all vegetables are tender. Great on a cold day, served with pimento cheese or peanut butter sandwiches.

This is one of our favorite soup recipes.

We can hardly wait to receive your magazine, we read it cover to cover! – Wanda Walker-Fox, Tompkinsville, Kentucky

Cranberry Squash

4 medium acorn squash

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries; coarsely chopped

1 medium orange, peeled and diced

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Cut squash in half, throw the seeds away. Place cut side down in a 9” × 13” baking pan. Fill the pan with hot water to a depth of 1/2 inch. Bake uncovered, 350°F for about 30 minutes. Combine cranberries, apple, orange, sugar, walnuts, butter, and orange peel. Drain water from the pan, with squash side up. Sprinkle with salt, stuff with cranberry mixture. Bake 25 minutes longer or until squash is tender. This is wonderful for your Thanksgiving or Christmas table and very colorful. (8 servings) – Carole Braun, Wisconsin