Vulgar bulgur

In Food on June 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm


I’m still working my way through the kitchen, in case you’ve been wondering. The freezer practically has tumble weed blowing through it now and last night I finished the last of the macaroni, which was a significant moment.

I’m still burdened, though, with copious amounts of polenta – disgusting stuff, really, isn’t it? Every time I pick that packet up and wonder if the family can stand any more corn bread I remember something Jonathan Ross said once: ‘You’ve got to feel sorry for the middle class – they have to eat polenta…’

The only thing harder to shift is the bloody cracked wheat. My former colleague at the Sydney Morning Herald, Paola Totaro came to stay with her family a few weeks ago (we have daughters the same age, which is brilliant luck, and they actually like each other, which is even better) and we cooked a Middle Eastern feast together, including Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for tabouleh, which I was hoping would make a cheeky dent in the bulgur. Ha ha ha.


It only uses about one tablespoonful and by the time dinner was ready Paola and I were nearly hysterical. You cannot believe the amount of work in that recipe. I was chopping parsley for what felt like several hours, while Paola gathered spices from a list as long as her arm – with just enough differences to be really maddening from the long list of spices required for the other Ottolenghi dish we were ‘rustling’ up.

Since then I’ve cooked the only other of his recipes I could find which uses bulgur, which was equally torturous and prompted my husband to say: ‘No more experiments. Please.’



I worship the food in Mr Ottolgenghi’s restaurants – particularly the tiny one in Notting Hill – and I adored reading his book Jerusalem, written with his Palestinian partner Sami Tamimi  (right), which is as much travel as cookery and confirmed that city’s position at the top of my list of places I most want to go to (closely followed by Berlin and Copenhagen), but I won’t be cooking from it again. Too hard.

Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

So – does anyone have any other suggestions for bulgur wheat? And if not, do you think I might be allowed to bin what’s left of it?

  1. Bin it – life is short…

  2. mix it with a little cement, let it set and then chuck it at the English football team when they get back from Brazil…

  3. Bin it and go to Berlin!!

  4. My tabouli recipe, which is a family staple because it’s so delish, is

    – 1 cup cracked wheat, soaked with salt in water
    – 2 bunches of parsley and mint (about 1 1/2 times the parsley to mint) – chopped in a hand blender
    – 2 tomatoes – chopped into squares
    – 1 Spanish onion – chopped into squares.

    Mix it all together and dress with
    – 3/4 cup good quality olive oil
    – one lemon
    – salt and pepper

    Test and adjust oil/lemon/seasoning to taste.

    The clean up is a bit messy with all the herb and cracked wheat bits, but with a blender, it’s a synch.

    Don’t be stingy on the herbs.

    Yum! And double yum with lamb or salmon.

    Enjoy Maggie.


  5. Feed it to the birds…the feathered variety. I still have a whole container of the stuff after a tabbouleh binge last summer. My big mistake was buying a whole packet. Have made just the barest dent. Apparently the thing to do is buy just the amount you need from those dispensers at a whole foods store.

    • Now THAT is smart… just buy a handful. I’m going to make one more tabouleh. Someone has given me a good easy recipe on here, then I’m going to give it to my sister for her chooks. I might make one more batch of corn bread as Catherine suggests above., There’s a good recipe with chilies in it… but I think those two packets are becoming mental blocks and I will feel much better if I pay them forward to the chickens who have given me so many yummy eggs. x

  6. You could try making pancakes with the polenta, and add some blueberries. With bulgur, you can make a salad with it and by adding feta cheese, it’s more of a meal. Add chopped herbs, cucumber and lemon juice etc.

    I do really like cornbread. You can serve it for breakfast heated under grill and add butter and honey. It’s also edible served in a bowl with milk poured on top for a snack.

  7. Bin it! You are risking family harmony x

  8. You could try polenta chips. They are yummy. We order them at Hugo’s every time we go and love them.

  9. There is a Donna Hay recipe using instant polenta that could probably be adapted. Line the cups of a muffin tin with prosciutto or similar, make the polenta on the stove (I cook it with stock and various seasonings for flavour), mix in some butter and cheese then pour into the individual prosciutto cases and bake. The flavour from the prosciutto goes through the polenta as well. I serve it with steak and gravy. I am not a huge polenta fan but really enjoy this dish.

  10. I think you’re allowed a ‘bin or two’. You’ve clearly been working very hard on using everything in the pantry and freezer… go for it… bin away!!

    • Se above – I’m going to make one more tabuleh using a recipe someone gave me on here, then it’s all going to my sister’s lovely chickens! x

  11. Give it to the chooks, or a neighbour with chooks, they would love it. At least then some eggs would come out of it…..

    • Yes! Tanya suggested feeding it to the pigeons in Trafalgar Sq and that made me think of my sister’s chickens. She has some new babies, so it will be gobbled up enthusiastically. x

  12. Cann you use it in a wheat pack?

    • Is that something to go on my face? With my ultra reactive skin I’m not game. Currently I’m thinking one more tabuleh (with recipe supplied in comments) and then it goes to my sister’s chickens… x

      • A wheat pack is a small rectangular pillow that you can heat up in the microwave. It keeps heat for ages and is wonderful on back pain or for belly cramps. Could be worth a go if you really don’t want to throw it out though I wouldn’t have a clue how to make one.

  13. Go to Trafalgar Square with Peggy and feed it to the pigeons.

  14. First of all, given how magnificently you’ve used up so much from your pantry already, I believe you’ve earned the right to bin it without any guilt at all. If in the future you feel tempted to make a tabouli again, use brown rice. Easier and gluten free as well.

    As for polenta, you need lots of butter, lots of cheese and lots of Good God What Is That Green Vegetable In The Crisper, add it, finely grated, (cheese AND veg) to hot polenta before you then let it cool to a slab. Cut it up into hash brown sized slices, coat in a little flour, fry and top with an egg. GORGEOUS.

    After that meal, bin the rest. As I like to think they say in Jerusalem, Enough Already.

  15. do you have a compost pile? Guilt free chucking!

  16. I have skimmed the ingredients lists of all the recipes in my classic Lebanese Cookbook circa 1978 by Selwa Anthony. There are surprisingly few which use bur’ghul (her spelling). But you could always have a go at making kibbi which uses rather a lot. Selwa’s recipe ought to get rid of the grain – at least out of the packet and pantry if not your fridge and freezer. It calls for 4.5 cups of the stuff plus 1 leg of mutton. I’m thinking a family or neighbourhood bash should get rid of some and the leftovers should last another week as well. You might need to get smashed washing it down with Arak though.
    More seriously Selwa also recommends a quarter teaspoon of regular mixed spice in your tabbouleh. I’ve tried this and it is really nice.

    • Kibbi was the other recipe I made!!! It didn’t work mainly because I was too lazy to get the lamb mince specified in the recipe and even full fat beef mince didn’t ooze delicious fat into the horrible bulgur enough ha ha ha. I’m going to make one more tabuleh and then SLING it!

  17. I love that you can casually toss in a reference to a cooking fest with Paola Totaro!

    Maybe you can use bulgar as a gently abrasive scrub… I do like it in tabbouleh but am too slack to have made it more than once. Polenta is quite nice dusted around salmon cakes before pan frying. Again, haven’t done them for a while…

  18. Use the cracked wheat for homemade wheat bags ( hello teachers Christmas presents) and really investigate polenta cake…

  19. I think you are allowed a “sin bin” Maggie – after all you have inspired a whole lot of us to follow suit and cut down our consumerism! OR pay it forward to the chooks… after all, those packs must be close to their use by date. Have loved reading about your pantry journey, Thank you.

  20. Chuck! I wish I could follow my own advice!

  21. I purchased Jerusalem about 2 months ago, as I too adore Ottolenghi and I’ve found it one of the most useful and easy recipe books. Then again I stay away from wheat (paleo orientated).

    • Really??? How am I missing this? Can you suggest some recipes you’ve found easy, because I so love his food and would love to be able to make it at home, without having a nervous breakdown! x

      • I did a whole week of cooking where everything came from this book – I captured it all here:

        The real highlights were the sweet potato and fig salad, the caramelised onion chicken with cardamom rice and the eggplant. I’ve also made the orzo/rice side (which is amazing) and a few more of the meatballs. All good. A friend swears by the osso bucco with prunes.

  22. Hi Maggie, do you have a thermomix? If you did, you could turn your bulgur into flour and use it up that way… they are the most amazing machine!

    Without sounding like a bragger, there’s also some fab polenta recipes (faff free) for the thermomix – one of my faves is the crab and prawn polenta…delicious! I’ve blogged about it at my blog

    Love the idea of clearing out your freezer and pantry – I’m slowly working through mine!

    • What the heck is a Themomix????!!!

      • Oh, you’ve got to check them out!! Look at They have them in the UK as well but not sure of their website.

        I can put my hand on my heart and say mine changed my life. A huge call for a kitchen appliance but completely true. They are a food processor that whips, chops, purées, blends, juices, steams and cooks.

        Have a look! You won’t regret it!

  23. Maggie, this is a great and quick salad, good in summer when I can duck out and pick the herbs from my garden. I always have the other ingredients in my pantry,( I make preserved lemons each season, so easy and useful).You can just make the salad and add some left over cooked chicken and skip the dressing and bread too.

    Cracked Wheat Salad

    8 chicken thigh filets
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    2 teaspoons chopped thyme
    1 tablespoon za’atar
    1 tablespoon light olive oil
    2 spring onions,finely chopped
    1 cup cracked wheat, burghul
    1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    salt and pepper
    1 cup mixed chopped fresh herbs
    peel of 1/4 preserved lemon, finely chopped
    1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
    1/4 cup roasted slivered almonds
    1/4 cup lemon infused olive oil
    1/2 cup plain unsweetened yoghurt
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    rocket leaves tossed with olive oil & balsamic vinegar
    toasted Turkish bread, to serve Serves 4

    Place the chicken thighs between 2 pieces of baking paper and gently flatten with a rolling pin.
    Combine chicken, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and thyme and marinate for an hour.
    Place the chicken on a tray and sprinkle both sides with za’atar. Chargrill or BBQ on both sides until browned and cooked through.
    Heat the light olive oil in a pan and cook the spring onions over low heat until soft. Add the cracked wheat and stir to coat then add the stock, season to taste, cover and cook over low heat for 10 mins or until the liquid is absorbed.
    Tip the wheat mixture into a bowl, fluff up with a fork and cool. Add the herbs, preserved lemon, apricots, almonds and lemon oil; mix and season to taste.
    For the yoghurt dressing- combine yoghurt, gaelic and lemon juice and season to taste.
    Spread a little cracked wheat on to plates, top with chicken, drizzle with yoghurt or serve yoghurt on the side. Place dressed rocket alongside with some toasted Turkish bread.

  24. composte it… and then move on…guilt free…ha

  25. Karen Martini makes a delicious chicken salad with cracked wheat. The whole family love it. And it’s easy! You don’t even need to cook the chook – just grab a ready-cooked one!

  26. Veganomicon has a nice bulgur and mushroom salad. The online google books version has the recipe otherwise this blog has put up the ingredient list. Unlike a lot of recipes in this book this salad is straightforward. Lovely as a side for some chicken (I’m not actually vegan…..)

  27. Polenta needs loads of butter and a bit of parmesan cheese then it is OK. We eat a surprising amount as a substitute for pasta and rice. It needs to be served straight away otherwise it goes this cold porridge texture which is just awful.

  28. I once ate a lemon syrup cake made with polenta…but really Polenta is the kind of food one eats when fasting for Lent. I’m Italian and we don’t even make anything with it. If there was anything delicious to be made out of polenta, Italians would have figured it out.

    No ideas for bulgur though…

  29. Please throw it out NOW!!
    You will feel so liberated.

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