Bulgur wheat risotto, with new season asparagus, peas and smoked pancetta. A tasty dish that is simple and quick to prepare, making it a great mid-week dinner for all the family.
Bulgur wheat is a really tasty grain, full of flavour and with a nice texture. However, it is one of those grains that people often forget about, or don’t now how to cook. Which is a pity as it is a really great tasting grain and very simple and straightforward to cook with. I found a bag in my store cupboard, that I had forgotten about myself, and I decided to put it to good use in this flavoursome risotto. As a grain, bulgur wheat has a nutty flavour, which makes it a perfect pairing with vegetables and cheese.
What is bulgur wheat?
Bulgur wheat is a grain, a cracked wheat that originated in the Mediterranean. A staple food, commonly found in both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. It is used as the base grain in many dishes, including tabbouleh. This fibre rich, whole grain has a lovely nutty flavour and works great in dishes like this risotto.
However, once cooked it can also be cooled and added to salads. Mix it with some crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs like parsley and tarragon, and a lemon dressing and you have a wonderful, fresh tasting salad.
The new season’s asparagus is just about to hit our supermarket shelves and this recipe makes great use of it. Asparagus is one of the highlights of the food calendar in my opinion. Fresh, British grown, asparagus is an utter joy to eat and I ensure I eat plenty of this delicious green vegetable when it’s available.
It works really well in this dish with the nutty bulgur what, the sweet tasting peas and the smoked pancetta. The flavours marry together really well.
We have used frozen peas in this recipe as it’s something most of us will have in our freezers. I am a great fan of using frozen peas in my cooking. In fact I rarely use anything else! Frozen peas are frozen within hours of being picked so the process retains their fresh, sweetness.
Too often I’ve bought bags of fresh peas from the supermarket only to find they have a bitterness to them. Of course, the best peas are those I pick straight from my garden, but in all honesty they never make the pan either and are usually shelled and eaten straight away!
How do I cook bulgur wheat?
Unlike some grains, bulgur wheat cooks really quickly. in approximately 15 minutes in either water or stock. It is a versatile grain and can be eaten hot or cold, it makes a great salad. Think of it as being similar to rice or couscous, use it in similar style dishes. I enjoy eating a variety of grains, with bulgur wheat being one of my favourites.
Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
This recipe, as is the case with most risottos, is best eaten immediately. There is a freshness to the dish and this wouldn’t be the case if the dish was reheated. That’s not to say that any leftovers can’t still be reheated and enjoyed. It just won’t have the lightness.
Adapt the recipe for vegetarians:
This recipe is very simple to adapt to a meat free recipe, suitable for vegetarians or anyone looking to include a few meat free days in their diet. Firstly remove the smoked pancetta from the dish. It will change the flavour, but the risotto will be no worse for it.
Secondly, substitute the Parmesan with a suitable vegetarian cheese.
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Bulgur Wheat Risotto with Asparagus, Peas & Pancetta
- 30 g butter
- 100 g smoked pancetta – diced
- 1 medium onion – finely chopped
- 2 sticks celery – finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic – crushed
- 300 g bulgur wheat
- 1 ltr vegetable stock – heated up
- 200 g asparagus – chopped
- 150 g frozen peas
- 20 g butter
- 100 g parmesan – grated
- 2 tbsp fresh tarragon – chopped
- salt & pepper
- Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the smoked pancetta to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until the fat has rendered down and the pancetta is starting to crisp.
- Add the onion and celery to the pan and saute gently for 5 minutes, taking care to soften but not colour the vegetables. Next add the garlic to the pan and continue to cook for a further minute.
- Next add the bulgur wheat to the pan and give it a good stir to coat it completely in the vegetable and butter mixture.
- Turn the temperature down to medium low. Gradually pour the stock into the pan and stir well. Keep adding the stock a little at a time, allowing the bulgur wheat to absorb the liquid. Don't add it all at once, you want to cook it low and slow to allow the wheat to soften. This will take approximately 15 minutes.
- With the last pour of stock, add the asparagus and peas to the bulgur wheat and cook gently for to cook through, 2-3 minutes.
- To finish the dish, add the parmesan cheese, butter and chopped tarragon. Season with salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Serve immediately.
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