How to Cook Bulgur: Five Recipes

Try these tasty, nutritious and high protein cereal grain recipes: Bulgur Stuffed Peppers, Bulgur Swedish Cabbage Rolls, Bulgur and Sausage Jambalaya, and Scotch Broth With Bulgur.
By Julie Needham
January/February 1974
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Bulgur is a form of crushed and dried wheat that is high in protein and can be easily cooked into many recipes for added texture and flavor.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA


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Whole wheat, most of us agree, is fine food, but not everyone enjoys it cooked "as is." In the article Bulger Recipes for Dinner or Anytime, Betty Warner urged cereal lovers to try the parched and cracked high protein cereal known as bulgur, and described how to cook with that product at home. As some of us have learned from following Betty's directions for bulgur wheat recipes, this Middle Eastern specialty — also called bulgor, bhulgar, burghrol or boulgour, depending on what region of that area the speaker hails from — keeps well, cooks more quickly than the whole grain, and takes on a pleasant crunchy texture and nutty taste from the roasting.

The traditional way to cook with bulgur is by boiling and sun-drying whole wheat and partially cracking the kernels with stones (see Bulger Recipes for Dinner or Anytime for more complete directions). It can then be used in a wide variety of dishes, such as the stuffed bell peppers, Swedish cabbage rolls and bulgur and sausage jambalya recipes listed below. Those of us who follow roughly the same preparation method in our own kitchens (with more advanced equipment) may not be aware of this country's large-scale bulgur industry, which has been turning out parched wheat by mass-production methods for the last 20 years. This is the subject of an informative booklet called Bulgur: A New Wheat Food recently sent to MOTHER EARTH NEWS by Protein Cereal Products International, an association which promotes the use of the product in the U.S. and overseas.

The American interest in bulgur dates from the 1950s (back when we had a food surplus, remember?) and grew out of a combined effort by wheat growers, millers and government agencies to find an easily stored cereal product that would be acceptable both on the open market and in various domestic and foreign aid programs. The ancient technique of parching and cracking turned out to be a satisfactory answer, and bulgur labeled "Made in U.S.A." became a fairly common article on the shelves of well-stocked supermarkets.

Fortunately, the product that was once thought of as a good use for surplus wheat may turn out to be just as well suited to a time of scarcity. It won't be long now before many of us feel a need to dig out our copies of Diet for a Small Planet (which we conscientiously bought but never got around to using) and take a hard look at possible sources of adequate protein from the correct combination of plant and dairy foods. Those who wisely set aside part of their land for small-scale cereal growing, and those who can buy good whole wheat or commercial bulgur locally, may be especially interested in author Frances Moore Lappé's suggestions for making the most of that grain.

Bulgur should be a good subject for experiments with vegetable protein, since (according to PCPI's booklet) the parching process seems to have little effect on whole wheat's nutritional qualities. (On a per-pound basis, there's a slight loss in fat, thiamine and phosphorus, but a slight gain in protein and possibly in some other nutrients, depending on what kind of wheat is used. Hard red winter wheat makes a more nourishing bulgur than white: 11.3 percent protein by weight as compared to 8.5 percent.) Combined — by Ms. Lappé's rules — with milk, cheese, soy or sesame, what used to be a rather exotic import item can become a useful part of anyone's personal answer to the meat shortage.

Whether you're an old friend of this tasty, nutritious cereal or just feel like trying it out, you may want to sample some of the recipes provided by PCPI. This recipe follows the basic cooking rule given in the association's brochure.

Boiled Bulgur Recipe

Ingredients: 

1 measure bulgur
2 measures water
salt to flavor
 

Instructions: 

Place the water in a pan and add the salt a bulgur. Cover these ingredients, bring them to a boil and simmer them for 15 minutes. Remove the cereal from the heat and drain it (Betty Warner, as you may remember, suggested using stock or tomato juice instead of water and cooking the grain until all the liquid is absorbed.)

Cooked bulgur can then be used as a cereal or side dish, or it can become the mainstay of a meal in savory combinations like the three recipes that follow.

Bulgur Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Serves 6. 

Ingredients: 

3 to 4 sweet bell peppers 

For the stuffing:

2 1/2 cups cooked bulgur
1/2 pound ground, fresh or leftover meat or sausage
1 cup meat or chicken stock (or canned bouillon)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
 

For the baking sauce:

3/4 cup tomato purée
3/4 cup meat stock or canned bouillon
 

Instructions: 

1. Prep the Peppers. Cut three or four green or red sweet bell peppers into halves lengthwise, remove all seeds and white portions and place the shells in a shallow baking dish.

2. Blend the Stuffing Mixture: Blend the bulgur, meat, 1 cup of stock, salt, seasoned salt and pepper in a bowl. When sufficiently mixed, fill the pepper halves.

3. Mix the Sauce: Combine the tomato purée and 3/4 cup of meat stock and pour them over the stuffed peppers. Cover the dish and bake it in a moderate oven, 375 degrees Fahrenheit, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking for 40 minutes. 

Bulgur Swedish Cabbage Rolls Recipe

Serves 6. 

Ingredients: 

12 large cabbage leaves 

For the stuffing:

3 tbsp. margarine or drippings
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 pound ground beef, veal or pork
2 1/2 cups cooked bulgur
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/5 tsp. mace
3/4 cup meat or chicken stock
 

2 tbsp. margarine for topping cabbage rolls 

For the baking sauce:

1 cup beef stock or tomato purée, or a combination of both
2 tbsp. margarine for topping cabbage rolls
dash of salt for topping cabbage rolls
 

Instructions: 

1. Prep the Cabbage. Wilt the leaves in hot water for five to ten minutes.

2. Saute the Stuffing. Heat the margarine or drippings in a heavy skillet, then brown the green onion and ground meat over moderate heat.  Add the bulgur, salt, seasoned salt, pepper, mace and chicken stock. Cover the skillet and cook the contents over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed. 

3. Stuff the Cabbage Leaves. Divide the mixture into 12 parts and mound one portion on each cabbage leaf. Roll up the leaves (starting with the thick end of each one) and secure the packets with toothpicks. Place the rolls, sealed side down, close together in a shallow baking dish. Dot each with 1/2 tsp. margarine.

4. Pour on the Sauce. Cover the rolls with beef stock or tomato purée, sprinkle each roll with salt and dot it again with butter or margarine. Bake the finished product in a moderate oven, 375 degrees, basting occasionally, for about 1 1/2 hours or until the cabbage is very tender and lightly browned. 

Bulgur and Sausage Jambalaya Recipe

Serves 5 to 6.  

Ingredients: 

8 ounces sausage cut in 1.2-inch lengths
1 1/2 cups diced ham
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
3 1/2 cups meat or chicken stock or diluted canned consommé
2 1/2 cups cooked bulgur
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. powdered chives
1/4 tsp. chili powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
dash of cayenne
 

Instructions: 

Saute sausage, ham, onions, bell pepper and celery in a heavy skillet until lightly browned. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the jambalaya, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened (about 45 minutes). 

Finally, here's a recipe that calls for dry bulgur, brewed with lamb and vegetables into a strengthening winter soup which can just about make a meat in itself.

Scotch Broth With Bulgur Recipe

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 quarts of water
2 pounds lamb shanks (or beef)
1 1/2 cups dry bulgur
1 cup diced or shredded carrots
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup chopped onions or leeks
1 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup snipped parsley
1 to 3 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp curry powder (optional)
 

To thicken:

2 tsp. butter or margarine
2 tbsp. flour
 

Instructions: 

1. Cook the Meat. Simmer lamb or beef in the water for 2 to 3 hours. Remove the beat and bones from the pot and skim off the fat.

2. Add Vegetables and Spices. Combine the bulgur, carrots, peas, onions, celery, parsley, salt, pepper and curry powder in the the broth mixture. Cover the pot and continue to cook the soup until the vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes).

3. Add the Meat. Remove the meat from the bones, dice it and return it to the mixture.

4. Prepare the Thickener. Remove 2 cups of broth from the soup. Blend margarine and flour together over low heat and stir the resulting paste into the reserved broth. Add this combination to the pot and continue to cook the soup until its thickened (three minutes). 


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