This week, Susan Jane Murray waxes lyrical on the benefits of bulgar, an unrefined wheat grain
Why do so many people feel bloated after croissants and pasta? I used to blame it on female dietary neuroses until male counterparts also began speaking of dodgy digestion and military-grade flatulence following a pizza binge.
Upon further investigation, I found out that today's refined flour is bleached with chemicals such as benzoyl peroxide to turn it a Persil-like shade of white, as this is considered more appealing. Did you know that flour should have a natural yellow pigment to it? The bleaching agent needs to be neutralised by yet another additive, such as chalk. It's also a common practice to irradiate wheat in order to avoid contamination by insects, and prolong its shelf life. Sure, is it any wonder our poor bowels are having a hard time registering it?
Good news -- you don't need to quarantine wheat from your diet to avoid these nasty processing methods. Just be mindful of your sources, and mindful of your health. Look out for wholesome versions of flour such as dense wholewheat brown bread, bran, wheatgerm, and bulgur grain.
Bulgur has been steamed, lightly hulled and gently split, which goes to explain why it's sometimes, understandably, confused with cracked wheat. Think of it as couscous's bigger, bolder brother with greater nutritional kudos.
Bulgur and Sumac Salad
This knobbly, nutty grain will fuel your Duracell levels with its bountiful B vitamins, slow-releasing carbs and fibre. Referred to as a low GL food -- GL stands for glycemic load -- studies have shown you're less likely to reach for caffeine to fix your blood sugar levels later in the day having consumed a low GL food.
However, high GL foods such as refined white flour will shoot your blood-sugar levels up, precipitating both an unwanted energy slump and sharpened fangs.
Bulgur wheat needs some crunchy, juicy allies such as celery and pomegranate to jazz it up and seduce the taste buds. Teaming it with walnuts, hemp seeds and some yoghurt increases the dish's protein profile so it more than qualifies as a nutritious, speedy supper, too.
You will need:
100g (4oz) coarse bulgur wheat
250ml (¾ pint) seasoned water or stock
400g (1lb) celery
Small bunch flat-leafed parsley and/or mint
Seeds of half a pomegranate
75g (3oz) broken walnuts
1 tablespoon pre-shelled hemp seeds
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sumac spice
1 clove garlic, crushed
200g (8oz) Greek yoghurt
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring your bulgur and the seasoned water or stock, whichever you're using, to the boil, cover, then cook on a low heat for 15 minutes. Once cooked, if there's any excess water drain it off, and fluff it with a fork. It's ready when it's al dente.
Chop the celery into bite-sized pieces by slicing diagonally along the shaft. Roughly tear the parsley and/or the mint leaves, and toss with the sliced celery, the bulgur, the pomegranate seeds, the broken walnuts, the shelled hemp seeds and the extra virgin olive oil. For the dressing, stir the sumac spice and the crushed garlic into the Greek yoghurt. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. You'll find sumac spice in many, but not all, supermarkets. It is a burnt-red powder that's ground from Middle Eastern berries, giving it a polite lemony kick. Sumac spice is increasingly mistakenly thought to be Australian, simply because the Ozzies go wild for it with crushed macadamia nuts, sprinkled over barbecued fish and steak. However, if you're using it like that, you'll find walnuts are friendlier to your wallet.