Bulgur wheat, the popular Turkish whole grain, came into our lives thanks to Ozlem, our friend from Istanbul. As two women who take great pride in making their native cuisines and culture more globally accessible, Ozlem and I hit it off instantly.
A native of Turkey, Ozlem shares the Turkish way of life and delicious recipes on her resourceful blog, Ozlem’s Turkish Table. Over the years, I have tried many of her recipes; they are addictive and simple, her easy-to-make humus being my son’s favorite dip.
Ozlem’s explanation on bulgur as a grain is worth a read…it will quickly lead you to the realization that bulgur is to Turkish food as rice and lentils are to Indian food. This inexpensive protein filled whole grain is easily found at your local grocer (try the bulk section or ethnic aisle). Check out ‘pilafs and rice’ on Ozlem’s Turkish Table for more bulgur recipes.
Though we love our staple of rice, lentils and Indian breads; I haven’t stopped experimenting with bulgur ever since it came to our dinner table. It’s exciting to have a new toy…oops; I meant a new grain, to which I can add Indian flavors and twists. I’m happy to announce that bulgur has stood up to the test and taken Indian flavors a step further.
As they say, ‘the proof is in the pudding’- so try this quick-cooking Indian-style pulao with bulgur instead of rice and let me know what you think…
1 cup bulgur
1 cup water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 bell pepper (or a cup of finger peppers),large dices*
½ cup sweet corn kernels (I use frozen)*
1 medium carrot, thick sliced*
4-5 cremini mushrooms, quartered*
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons tomato paste
¼ cup cilantro
Juice of a lemon
* Use your choice of vegetables, just follow the same cooking process.
Wash and drain the bulgur. Add one cup of water or vegetable stock to the bulgur, ¼ teaspoon salt and bring it to a boil. Reduce the flame and cook covered for only 5-10 minutes (unlike rice, this really cooks fast.) Let it stand for 5 minutes and then fluff the bulgur with a fork so the grains separate. Cover and leave aside till vegetables are ready.
In a sauté pan, heat olive oil along with the garlic and cumin seeds. Notice that we add the garlic to cold oil and let it heat together, this infuses the oil with the garlic and cumin seed flavors and prevents them from burning.
Start chopping and adding vegetables to the pan – carrots, bell pepper, mushroom and corn. Sprinkle spices and ½ teaspoon of salt. Sauté till vegetables achieve desired doneness (I like them a bit crunchy.) Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the cooked bulgur, cilantro and lemon; stir to blend all the flavors. Serve hot with a dash of lemon; along with this cool cucumber-onion raita.