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Burghul: A nutrtional alternative to rice and corn.

HABEEB SALLOUM
58 LANGBOURNE PLACE
DON MILLS (TORONTO), ONTARIO
CANADA M3B 1A9
HABEEB.SALLOUM@SYMPATICO.CA


"If Noth Americans only ate burghul, we could easily sell our wheat!" My father appeared angry as I helped him shovel yet another load of grain onto a pile open to the elements. Our granaries were full and that autumn the elevators in town, overflowing with grain, had stopped purchasing wheat. The drought, grasshoppers and other ailments of the Depression years had cut grain production almost to zero and this was one of the few bountiful years that we farmers in south Saskatchewan were to enjoy. But the Wheat Board, awash with grain, had quotas and we could only sell a limited quantity.

My father's words had a ring of truth, even though at that time I did not give them much relevance. Burghul was not a word with which we children were enamoured. I always loathed the July days when it was burghul-making time.

As youngsters, we had to partake in all the phases involved in the production of our yearly supply of burghul, commonly known as cracked wheat--around 200 pounds. First, we had to scour the bare prairie land for the odd pieces of wood discarded by farmers and then build an outdoor fireplace. After washing the wheat we placed it in an oil drum, cut in half, and covered it with water. The hardest part of all was to carry buckets of water from a nearby well. How I cursed burghul. "Why could we not be like our neighbors' children who had never heard of that accursed food," I often thought to myself.

After the wheat was cooked, but not overdone, we spread it on white sheets under the hot sun. In about two days the kernels turned bone-dry. We dunked them into water, then put them through a grain chopper. My mother would then winnow the crushed, cooked wheat to remove the loose bran and again spread the burghul on the sheets until all moisture was gone.

Today, this method of making burghul is only a historic memory. In all the large cities of North America this first-rate wheat product is produced by machines and electrically controlled ovens. Very few of the descendants of the early Syrian immigrants, or even the new arrivals, now make their own burghul. It is available in a number of supermarkets, health stores and Mediterranean food shops in most urban centers.

Called by some "the noblest food achieved by wheat," burghul, also known as bulgar, bulgur and bulgour, was first eaten in the Middle East about 7,000 years ago. The Armenians, Syrians and other immigrants from that part of the world introduced it to North Americans at the beginning of this century. However, only in the last few decades has it become known to the general public of the large urban centers in the western world.

It has become a much sought after food by vegetarian and other health-conscious people in North America. Research has proven that this cereal is unequalled in food value. The cooking of the wheat preserves most of its nutrients, even when some of the bran is removed after the cooked grain is crushed. The calcium, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin B and protein content are almost all retained.

These are not lost when burghul is stored. It will last for years without loss of food value and any other type of deterioration.

Unsurpassed as a nourishing edible, burghul has more food energy than corn meal; more iron than rice; less fat than uncooked wheat; six times more calcium than corn meal and three times more than rice; and more vitamins than barley, corn meal or rice. An inexpensive, natural, wholesome and succulent versatile product of wheat--a great replacement for rice--it can be used in all types of dishes and in every course and every meal of the day.

Burghul can be purchased in bulk or packaged and comes in three forms: coarse, medium and fine. The coarse is used in pottage dishes; the medium as an ingredient in salads; and the fine as a main component in vegetarian and meat patties, as a breakfast cereal and in a number of deserts. With all these multipurpose uses, there is no doubt, any wheat surplus would disappear should burghul become a feature on the daily menu.

These few easy-to-make dishes should give one a sample of the many others to be found in the culinary world of this healthy eatable.
Burghul Pilaf

Serves 4
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 cup coarse burghul
2-1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


Melt butter in a frying pan, then saute onions over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add burghul and stir-fry for further 3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium/low heat for 20 minutes. Shut off heat and allow to cook in own steam for about 20 minutes. Serve hot as a side or main dish.
Taboula

 (Burghul and Parsley Salad)
 Serves about 8
 1 cup medium burghul, soaked for 10
minutes in cold water, then drained by
pressing water out through a fine strainer.
 2 medium bunches of parsley, thoroughly
washed, stemmed, then finely
chopped
 1 cup finely chopped green onions
 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
 2 medium tomatoes, diced into 1/4
inch cubes
 1 large clove garlic, crushed (optional)
 4 tablespoons olive oil
 4 tablespoons lemon juice
 1 teaspoon salt
 1/2 teaspoon pepper
 Lettuce leaves


Place burghul and all vegetable ingredients, except lettuce, in a bowl, then thoroughly mix and set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients, then pour over burghul and vegetables. Toss and serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.
Kubbah

 (Burghul Tartare, or Meat Patties)
 Serves 6 to 8
 1-1/2 lbs. fresh lean beef or lamb
 1 cup fine burghul, soaked for 15
minutes in warm water, then drained by
pressing water out through a fine strainer.
 2 medium onions, finely chopped
 2 teaspoons salt
 3/4 teaspoon pepper
 3/4 teaspoon cumin
 1/2 teaspoon allspice
 1/8 teaspoon cayenne


Place meat in a food processor and process until well ground, then add remaining ingredients and process into thick paste. Spread on a platter and sprinkle with olive oil before serving, or form into patties and deep fry, then serve hot.
Burghul Dessert

Serves from 4 to 6
1 cup coarse burghul
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon crushed cloves
1/2 cup honey


Place burghul, salt and water in a saucepan, then bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until burghul is well-cooked. Stir in remaining ingredients and serve hot.

Cooking hint: Recycle a pump spray container to hold cooking oil. Use it to spray skillets before use with a little oil to keep things from sticking.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:SALLOUM, HABEEB
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:1155
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