Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Next time, substitute couscous

I'd been looking for burghul to make tabbouleh (p179). This is also described as 'cracked wheat' in the recipe, and I gather from Google that it's also known as bulgur wheat. The thing is, I hadn't been able to find any. When I was at Bin Inn the other day, I got some buckwheat in the hope that this was just another name for the same thing.

It isn't. Happily, a little Googling informed me that buckwheat is a suitable substitute for bulgur wheat, the cooking methods even being the same. Sweet.

Stupidly, I didn't actually read what those cooking methods were. The tabbouleh recipe just instructs you to cover the burghul with boiling water and leave it for 30 minutes. I hoped this would work for the buckwheat too.

I poured my water over and left it. Half an hour later, most of the water had been absorbed, and I drained off the rest. There seemed to be a bit of sediment in the liquid, so I gave it a quick rinse too. After that, I just needed to add a few things: tomatoes, mint and parsley (quite a lot of parsley) from the garden, then lemon juice, oil and seasoning.

I put the tabbouleh in the fridge to chill while I bunged some frozen fish fillets in the oven.  A short time later the fish was ready and I was trying my tabbouleh.

The flavours were good, though perhaps a bit heavy on the parsley. It was the texture of the buckwheat that was the real problem. Some of the grains were soft right through, others weren't. On top of that, the combination of oil and lemon juice with the buckwheat created a sort of unappealing gluey consistency in the dressing.

I can't speak for what this recipe would be like if you actually used burghul,  but I can say that substituting buckwheat is not that successful. One other substitute I considered before buying the buckwheat was couscous. It's easy to make, easy to find, and I think it would work quite well in this recipe. If you can't find burghul, try couscous. That's what I would do.

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