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Quick meals with burghul

Chicken, yoghurt, lemon and burghul soup

Chicken, yoghurt, lemon and burghul soup

The hero of the classic Middle-Eastern tabbouleh, this grain gives true grit to soups and pilafs.

Burghul, or bulgur, is a grain produced from wheat berries. It's sold parboiled then dried and comes in a range of grades, from finely cracked through to medium and coarse. The most common types we find in Australia are the fine-grit and coarse-grit burghul. You'll find it at Middle Eastern, Turkish or Greek grocers.

Because it's partly cooked, burghul makes a great pantry item; it's quick to prepare, especially the fine variety, which only needs to be soaked. If you like the grains light and fluffy, boil the bulgur briefly, then spread the grains out on a tray to dry so the dish you're making doesn't become soggy. Give the burghul a quick rinse before cooking or soaking to remove any dirt and excess starch. The coarser variety needs to be cooked, but it takes less than half an hour.

A Middle Eastern staple, burghul goes well with lamb; kibbeh is the Lebanese classic dish of minced lamb and burghul. It's great in salads as well as soups and stuffing, especially with dried fruit and nuts to enhance its nutty flavour.

Tabbouleh is probably the most well-known burghul dish; in our version here, we've added ripe tomatoes and lemon juice to the grain with just a little water so the flavour of the tomatoes isn't too diluted.

Tabbouleh
Serves 8-10 as a side
Combine 150gm rinsed fine burghul with 5 very ripe diced tomatoes, juice of ½ lemon and 60ml cold water in a bowl. Stand until liquid is absorbed and burghul is tender (1½ hours). Add 2 diced Lebanese cucumbers, 2 cups coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 cup coarsely chopped mint, 1 crushed garlic clove, juice of 2 lemons and 150ml extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste, toss well and serve.

Chicken, yoghurt, lemon and burghul soup
Serves 6
Bring 2 litres chicken stock and 1.25 litres water to the boil in a large saucepan, add a 1.5kg chicken, bring back to the boil, boil for 5 minutes, then turn off heat, cover and set aside until chicken is cooked through and cooled (2-3 hours). Remove chicken and shred meat. Meanwhile, cook 180gm fine burghul in a saucepan of boiling water until tender (2 minutes). Drain and add to meat. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add 1 finely chopped onion and 1 finely chopped garlic clove and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened (8-10 minutes). Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer, then stir in burghul and chicken, 250gm thick yoghurt and ¼ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves, season to taste and serve with extra mint leaves and lemon juice, to taste.

Smoky burghul and prawn pilaf
Serves 4
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan over high heat, add ½ finely chopped onion and ½ diced red capsicum and fry over medium heat until onion is tender (10 minutes). Add 1 tsp smoked paprika, ½ tsp ground cumin and stir until fragrant (10 seconds). Add 400gm coarse burghul, stir to combine, then add 1 tbsp dry Sherry and 600ml chicken stock, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until burghul is tender (12-16 minutes), adding 16 uncooked prawns in last 5 minutes of cooking. Add 2 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, season to taste and serve with a squeeze of lemon and aïoli and grilled crusty bread to the side.

Burghul with charred Roman beans and feta
Serves 4 as a light meal
Boil 90gm fine burghul in a large saucepan of salted water until tender (2 minutes). Drain well and spread out on a tray to dry (15 minutes), then combine in a bowl with finely chopped Spanish onion, 1 finely chopped jalapeño and ½ cup finely chopped dill. Toss 12 Roman beans in 2 tbsp olive oil and grill on a hot barbecue, turning until blistered (3-4 minutes). Coarsely chop beans and combine in a bowl with the juice of 1 lemon and 2½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and add to salad, season to taste and serve scattered with crumbled goat's feta.

HOT TIP
Fine burghul is great in a salad, and holds up well if you make it a day ahead of serving. Just add a little extra dressing to the salad the next day to freshen it up.

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