Not every dish is a looker. This dish reminds me of the ugly duckling, you know the tale where at the end we realise that even ugly ducklings are still delicious to eat? I mean, we try and make it look a little better by drizzling it with a little olive oil and placing neatly diced apple on top but somehow it still ends up looking remarkably like a swamp. But hey, If Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall can argue for wonky parsnips then I can argue for sorta strangely grey food, especially when it tastes this darn good! If you really care that much about looks then apart from you having learnt nothing from the meaningful work of Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow you can consider the fact that this makes an amazing vegetarian filling for roasted peppers, makes incredible mushroom “arancini” when breadcrumbed and fried (especially if cheekily stuffed with some cheese!) and knocks it out the park taking the place of rice in a burrito style wrap. But for me, I’m eating it out of a bowl relishing it’s ugliness and deliciousness all at the same time.
For readers following along with my blog regularly, they’ll recognise my love for this mushroom purée technique and that this recipe is somewhat similar to my mushroom farro with chorizo recipe. I ummed and ahhed about sharing this recipe but decided it was just too good and I’d share it anyway. Whereas the mushroom farro is deep and meaty with saltiness and spiciness humming through it, this mushroom bulgur wheat is perfumed with sage and olive oil and feels almost light whilst still having a depth of flavour. It doesn’t rely on bacon or chorizo to amp it up, it’s a true vegetarian / vegan dish that has gladly made its way onto our dinner rota. G and I try and eat at least one day a week vegetarian and another pescatarian – which I thought would be difficult for someone who loves meat as much as me (I mean just look at the recipes I post here!) – but it has actually been very easy and recipes like this one make it easier still. In fact, I’m currently going vegan monday to friday for a few weeks after people claimed I’d find it too hard and dishes like this are absolutely winning!
My favourite grain for this recipe is bulgur wheat – it has a little bite whilst having a mildness of flavour which doesn’t try and compete with the mushrooms. However, this recipe could work with Isreali couscous or pearl barley just as well. Personally, if I’m using farro I want a meatier and spicier note to complement the nuttiness farro or spelt bring and the recipe won’t work very well with couscous. I tried it once and the texture reminded me of frog spawn, the grains are just a little small to work well in this kind of application. Adding the olive oil will seem a little strange to people, I promise though it adds a slightly grassy and peppery note whilst also providing a little creaminess as it emulsifies into the mushroom bulgur wheat. It doesn’t make it taste at all greasy. It’s a trick I use in lots of recipes, I add a little to my bolognese sauce when I heat it up (I’ll post my bolognese recipe one day – I just am always tweaking it) and I emulsify into my ratatouille whether I’m using it on it’s own or on my ratatouille, parma ham and lemon ricotta pizza.
Mushroom bulgur wheat (serves 6 people)
- 500g uncooked bulgur wheat
- 300g mushrooms (I like a mix but often use chestnut mushrooms)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed
- 2 banana shallots (or 1 small sweet onion)
- Olive oil
- 1 large bunch of sage, minced finely
- 1 apple, peeled and finely diced – any firm crisp tart apple – not too sweet
- 2 tablespoons finely minced roasted hazelnuts (skins removed) – I buy these pre-chopped in the baking aisle
- First make the mushroom purée. For a more in depth view on how to make it follow this recipe. Chop the mushrooms roughly and place in a food processor until puréed. It will be quite wet at this point and you won’t be able to see chunks of mushroom. Season with salt and pepper and cook in a dry (no oil) pan over a medium heat stirring occasionally until almost all the water has been driven away and it almost balls together when stirred.
- In a medium sized pan cook the garlic, onion and half the sage with a little salt and pepper in a splash of olive oil over a low-medium heat. You want to soften and sweeten the onion without colouring.
- Add the bulgur wheat and salted water and cook on a roiling boil over high heat. I add just enough water to cover the bulgur wheat and then constantly top up the water checking for when the bulgur wheat is cooked. This allows me to have it come just to the point of perfectly cooked with very little water remaining in the pan and not have to drain it. This small amount of excess liquid is very starchy and is perfect for emulsifying the olive oil and mushrooms. It’s much better to cook the bulgur wheat this way for this prupose than to boil and then drain fully.
- Add the mushroom mixture and the remaining sage and stir to combine – you may need to add a small amount of water to loosen. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and stir to emulsify. Season well with salt and lots of black pepper. Place into bowls.
- Mix the apple with a small amount of olive oil and salt. Scatter a few cubes of apple on top of the bowls of mushroom bulgur wheat and serve.
TimedEating tips and tricks for cooking Mushroom Bulgur Wheat ahead:
- The mushroom base can be made up to a week in advance if kept in the fridge. It freezes well and so is easy to do in a large batch.
- If reheating the mushrooms from frozen, simply thaw and add as normal. If you’re a little short of time you can add a small amount (2 tablespoons) of water to a pan and add the mushrooms over a gentle heat to thaw and drive off that moisture.
- The whole mushroom bulgur wheat dish is actually delicious cold but can also be reheated. However, you’re best off leaving out the olive oil if you plan to reheat (nothing will go wrong just you’ll lose its fresh flavour as it sits. Therefore, I find it’s best to cool it down and reheat in a pan with a small amount of water over a relatively genlte heat. Once hot, add the oil as per the recipe and emulsify. You may need ot readjust seasoning as well.
- If cooling to use as a filling for a stuffed tomato or some such then I add the olive oil as per normal as although it loses some flavour in the cooling, it still makes for a better filling.
- If freezing, which this dish does fairly well (though not exceptionally) then as per cooling don’t add the oil. Thaw and reheat as above.