Monday, 17 December 2012

Tasty red beans and bulgar wheat ~ an easy vegan crowd pleaser

This simple recipe is a firm family favourite, enjoyed by vegetarians and meat eaters alike.  It's delicious hot or cold, can be made ahead of time and doesn't mind standing (nicer actually) and is just as tasty the next day if not more so.  It can also be stored in the freezer.  

Very little effort is required in the making of this dish, although it is important to allow enough time for the seasoning to be fully cooked and absorbed so I allow a half hour minimum for cooking time.  

I make this meal fairly often but had a hard time getting a photo as it usually it gets eaten right away!  This time I photographed it while still in the pan, where it couldn't get whisked away by eager diners!    

  • Bulgar wheat - 3/4 cup
  • Onions - 2 large
  • Garlic - 2 cloves
  • Oil, in which to sauté the onions and garlic 
  • Cumin, ground - 2 teaspoons
  • Green herbs, such as oregano and parsley, if you wish
  • Chilli powder - I usually use about a quarter of a teaspoon, but those with a robust taste for spices may like considerably more!  
  • Soy sauce - 1 Tablespoon
  • Red / kidney beans - One 425 gram tin, or about a cup and a half of beans you have cooked yourself
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Plenty of hot water
Now we come to a set of alternatives: The seasoning in this dish is what makes this dish so delicious: get it right and you have a winner; served with insufficient seasoning and all your work is wasted.  Both options here can be successful and it's really more a matter of what you have in the cupboard rather than anything else.  It's a very flexible recipe: 
Option (1)
  • Tomato paste - 3 Tablespoons
  • Sugar or honey - 1 dessertspoon
  • Water, hot - about half a cup
  • Lemon - juice of one
  • Stir all this up together and let it stand while you do the other cooking
Option (2) This is what I usually use, since I generally have these to hand:
  • Tomato sauce - 2 heaped tablespoons
  • Tomato relish - 2 heaped tablespoons
  • Sweet chilli sauce - some, if I'm feeling adventurous.  
  • Add these directly into the pan after the other things are cooking nicely
  • Place bulgar wheat in a bowl and cover it with boiling water and leave it to soak 
  • Decide whether you want Option 1 or 2 above and get that ready.
  • Chop onions and garlic and sauté them in the oil
  • Add spices, herbs, soy sauce, salt and pepper and allow to cook briefly
  • Add beans and continue to stir over a low heat
  • Add bulgar wheat and water
  • Add other seasoning as per Option 1 or 2
  • Simmer gently, adding further water as necessary.  It does absorb a lot of water, and take care that it doesn't catch on the bottom of your pan or pot.
  • Lastly and importantly: add further seasoning as desired.  It's much the nicest when it has a good strong tang.    
Serve with:
  • Rice or potatoes, or simply with salad or other vegetables.  
  • Non-vegans may enjoy the addition of grated cheese or a spoonful of cottage cheese on the side.  If lots of chilli has been used sour cream or yoghurt might appeal. 
  • For a delicious lunch the next day, try it reheated and piled onto whole grain toast.  I like it with grilled cheese on top!  

    Bulgar wheat, sometimes referred to as burghul wheat, is pre-cooked chopped wheat.  It comes in different grades, from finely to fairly coarsely chopped.  I much prefer the latter, which has a nutty flavour.  It takes longer to cook thoroughly but has a much better flavour.  

    Salutations and thanks to Alison Holst and Simon Holst who originated the recipe from which mine is drawn.  I am sure that their wonderful book, "Meals without meat", will become a classic among those featuring vegetarian cookery.  It certainly is in our family!

    If you enjoy this meal you might also enjoy this one, which is also vegan:
    My other recipes and food articles can be found via the link below:
    For a range of vegetarian and vegan mains dishes set out by protein type you can follow this link:


    Anonymous said...

    Just finished cooking, lovely, thanks for the recipe!

    Leigh Christina Russell said...

    Hello there, glad you enjoyed it.

    One of my forthcoming projects is to draw up and post a list plus recipes for two weeks worth of vegetarian main meals that I make and particularly like. Not sure when I'll get around to it, but it's definitely on the list! :-)