Most of you would know that bulgur or burghul (bulgur is Turkish, and burghul Arabic as I’ve now found out) is the name for cracked wheat that has been precooked and then dried so it cooks much more quickly than the whole grain. Probably like many people, tabouli (or tabbouleh, or at least three other spellings!) was my first experience of bulgur, being one of those classic Middle Eastern salads I remember being very popular during my childhood. And now I’ve been reminded, I think I’ll have to add tabouli to my list for this summer!
This isn’t a tabouli recipe however, but a rather more cross-cultural recipe that has been one of our favourite quick vegetarian dinners for years. We almost always have the ingredients and it’s another that can be made quickly after getting home from work. The combination of bulgur with tahini, soy, tomato paste and mustard sounds strange, but actually combines to give a delicious umami kick without the individual flavours standing out, as well as helping the burgers stick together. Note that bulgur comes in different grain sizes – use fine or medium for this as the coarse won’t stick together.
This is another recipe dating from my share house time with Mr GP and friends when we were all vegetarians, and our cooking bibles were the vegetarian Moosewood cookbooks Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home and Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites. Many of these recipes stand the test of time very well (I’ve got a couple more coming up), and if not for the usual compromises of feeding a family of very different tastes, we would probably eat like this more often.
The only thing that makes me feel slightly strange about posting this recipe is that in these wheat-free and low-carb times, a meal consisting of a wheat-based patty inside a wheat-based bun seems sort of wrong! So if you like, you can serve it as part of a meal with roast vegetables or a big salad (and a delicious variation is to add to the mix a tin of chickpeas, roughly mashed), but let me put in a vote for ignoring the carbs this time, and serving it in a bun with salad and a fried egg, topped with sweet chilli sauce 🙂
Bulgur (burghul) burgers
Adapted slightly from a recipe in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
- 2 Tbs oil plus extra for brushing
- 1 1/2 c fine or medium bulgur
- 2 cloves garlic
- 700ml boiling water
- 2 spring onions
- 1 medium carrot
- 2-3 sprigs parsley (1/4 c chopped)
- 3 Tbs tahini
- 2 Tbs tomato paste
- 2 Tbs soy sauce
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- pepper to taste
In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bulgur and finely chopped garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes until smelling toasty. Remove from heat and add water – it will bubble vigorously, so stir carefully. Return to heat, reduce to low and simmer covered for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed, and the bulgur is cooked through but still slightly chewy.
Finely slice the spring onions, grate the carrot, chop the parsley, and add to the bulgur with the remaining ingredients. Stir until thoroughly mixed, and adjust seasoning to taste.
Shape into about 8 patties. I use a 1/3 cup measure and pack in firmly to ensure they don’t fall apart. Place slightly apart on a lined baking tray and brush with a little oil if you want extra browning (brush the second side after turning).
Bake at 190C for about 25 minutes, carefully turning after 15, until they’re crunchy and lightly brown. You can also pan fry, but handle very carefully so they don’t crumble.
Serve either in a bun with sweet chilli sauce, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and optional egg; or with roast vegetables or a salad.