I hate to admit it, but there’s something about that word that puts me off. Maybe it’s because it sounds like vulgar or because in the years before my food awakening I had no idea what it was and just assumed that I’d hate it. It’s safer if you don’t try things, right?
Of course, that, as they say, is bull…
And in the case of bulger, that would be exceptional bull.
You may have had this cooked and cracked bit of wheat grain if you’ve had tabbouleh. Bulgur has played major role in Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries, and it is a bona fide ancient grain with 4000 year old ties to the Hittites, Hebrews and the Babylonians to boot.
Bulgur is wheat that gets a partial cooking before it’s dried and cracked. The grain has a nutty flavor and a substantial
and chewy texture that’s a very satisfying by itself, in salads, and, as in our recipe today, in soup, too.
Bulgur comes packing a bunch of good things. A cup of cooked bulgur has about 150 calories, is loaded with 8 grams of fiber, 5 and a half grams of protein, almost 10% of an adult woman’s recommended iron intake (and ~22% of men’s), and a healthy dose of thiamin, niacin, folate and vitamin B-6. All that and it can taste good too.
Bulgur works well with lots of seasonings and matches well with various foods, but today we’re pairing it with its long time nutritional partner in crime, the amazing lentil. Those of us with certain Sunday School backgrounds may remember the infamous bowl of lentils that Jacob used to acquire Esau’s birthright – like bulgur, lentils have an ancient pedigree: the legume was cultivated along the banks of the Euphrates some 4 millennia ago and remain an important part of that region’s diet.
If you combine these two foods you have a whopping bunch of fiber, protein, and vitamins; if you combine them in our soup recipe, you’ll be less concerned about how healthy your food is than with how well you’re eating. Mahasti combines cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, and turmeric in this soup which echo the flavor of the history that these two ancient staples share. More importantly, the spice blend creates a fragrant aroma and deceptively rich taste. Both lentils and bulgur bring a lot of texture to the pot, so it’s a hearty mouthful of satisfaction that tastes as good as it smells.
Tomato Head’s Red Lentil and Bulgur Soup
½ onion, chopped
½ cup oil
1 Tbl Chopped Garlic
3/4 cups Red Lentils
3/4 cups Bulgur Wheat
7 cups water
3 cups Tomato Juice
1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1.5 TBL Turmeric, ground
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
2 tsp Cumin, ground
1/4 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
½ tsp Cinnamon
1 TBL Salt
1.5 TBL Sugar
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion and Garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add red lentils, bulgur, water, tomato juice, lemon juice, tomato paste and spices. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 -40 minutes until lentils are soft.
Serve topped with chopped mint, and chopped cucumber.