3 Quick Recipes for Quinoa, Couscous and Bulgar

Looking for an easy way to use whole grains? These three quick recipes for quinoa, couscous and bulgar will have you cooking with grains in no time.

| December 2012

  • From top to bottom: Hattie's Pourgouri and Laura's Jeweled Salad
    Photo By Georgia Glynn Smith
  • "Leon: Naturally Fast Food" by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent contains hundreds of recipes for bold-flavored dishes that can be prepared quickly at home.
    Image Courtesy Conrad Octopus

Leon: Naturally Fast Food by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent (Octopus, 2012) contains hundreds of recipes for bold-flavored dishes that can be prepared quickly at home. The first half of the book contains “Fast Food” recipes that take a maximum of 20 minutes to prepare, while the second half focuses on “Slow Fast Food”—dishes that can be made in advance when you have more time and whipped up quickly when you don’t. These quick recipes for quinoa, couscous and bulgar come from the chapter “Quick Dinners and Lunches.”

Three quick ways with couscous, bulgar & quinoa

Although the first two of these are forms of wheat and the latter is an unprocessed grain unto itself, you can use these three beauties interchangeably. Feel free to switch the grains in the recipes below. (If you don’t fancy wheat, most big supermarkets now stock the traditional Moroccan barley couscous, too.)

1. Grain salads

1. Cook the grain as per the instructions on the packet. (For couscous and bulgar, you can usually just pour over boiling stock or water and leave to soak, but quinoa will take a bit more cooking.) 

2. Mix in olive oil, lemon juice, seasoning and your choice of additional ingredients. We like pine nuts, dried apricots, rocket leaves, finely sliced red onion and fresh parsley; or olives, flash-fried courgettes and aubergines, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh mint.

However, we have a particular soft spot for this recipe—and for its creator, our friend Laura.

Laura’s Jeweled Salad

Servings: 4
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

• 1 cup barley couscous
• 8 ounces good-quality feta cheese
• 1 cucumber
• a bunch of mixed fresh green herbs, e.g. mint and coriander
• ¾ cup pine nuts
• seeds of 1 large pomegranate
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• juice of 1½ lemons
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare the couscous as per the instructions on the packet. Leave to cool in a large bowl.

2. Crumble the feta and cut the cucumber into chunks. Add these to the bowl, then roughly tear the herbs and add them too.

3. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a frying pan over a low heat, and scatter these and the pomegranate seeds over the salad.

4. Peel and finely mince or grate the garlic. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic and pour over the salad. Season well with salt and pepper, and serve.

2. Grain pilafs

For something a little more substantial, you can also treat your grains as you would rice in a pilaf. Simply roast any left-over vegetables you have, then cook them with the grains in stock. This recipe came to us via Henry’s wife, Mima, whose sister Hattie picked it up from her friend Lucy, whose mother used to live in Cyprus. A typically picaresque recipe journey.

Hattie’s Pourgouri

Servings: 4
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

• 2 small onions (or 1 large)
• 3 cloves of garlic
• a handful of fresh mint, flat-leaf parsley or coriander
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1¼ cups bulgar wheat
• 2 (14½ ounces) cans of chopped tomatoes
• a handful of almonds, pistachios or pine nuts
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Peel the onions and garlic and chop finely. Chop the herbs.

2. Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add the bulgar wheat, stir well and add the chopped tomatoes. Stir thoroughly and lower the heat. Put a lid on the pan and cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring regularly, as it can stick easily.

4. When the bulgar is soft, add salt, pepper and the chopped herbs.

5. Toast the nuts in a frying pan and scatter them over the top when you are ready to eat.


° Drizzle over extra olive oil if necessary.
° Delicious with Greek yogurt, and wonderful served with roast lamb. 
° As good cold as it is hot.

3. Grains in soups

Adding grains towards the end of cooking is a great way to bulk up your soups. You will need to add them at slightly different times before you serve them. As a guide:

° Couscous: less than 3 minutes
° Bulgar: 10 minutes
° Quinoa: 15 minutes

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Leon: Naturally Fast Food, published by Conran Octopus, 2012.



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