Firstly I want to talk a little about Bulgar wheat. It’s one of my favourite grains to use in cooking as it has a delightful nutty flavour, it’s simple and quick to prepare and its texture is satisfying. It has a low GI rating so will keep you feeling full for a longer time than other grains. You can buy bulgar in ‘coarse’ or ‘fine’ sizes. If you use the coarse size, which I prefer because I insist on texture in my food, you should steam or cook like a pilaf as I do in this recipe. If you are using the finer grain you can prepare it like cous cous, where you cover it with boiling water until the grains have absorbed the liquid and then separate the grains with a good olive oil. Bulgur is also used in meat dishes in the Middle East such as koftas and Kibbeh (divine, must blog those soon) and is also the main ingredient in Tabbouleh, the salad we often have with parsley, onion, garlic, mint, lemon and olive oil.
Bulgar is a product made by parboiling wheat, then drying it and coarsely grinding it. The outer layers of bran are then removed by sprinkling with water and rubbing by hand so the grains crack.
Pomegranate Molasses is another of my favourite ingredients and works perfectly in this dish; adding a unique tanginess and depth to the cooking stocks. This dish is a meal in itself if you crumble a nice feta cheese over it (not necessary, but VERY tasty), but also works really well alongside my gooey garlicy chicken.
We are very lucky in Castlecomer to have the excellent product of Ring Farm Chickens. I know, chefs always go on about real chickens, but there is a reason why. Real chickens are a delight, they are full of flavour, have texture, they don’t exude tons of water into the roasting tin, there’s a tremendous amount of ‘cutting’ in them (even when small, which Ring’s aren’t btw), and the stock you get from boiling the bones is always a good, thick jelly-type stock. They are more expensive than non-chickens, let’s face it that’s what they should be called, but in reality you are getting more meat and one that tastes good. When I was teaching the ‘Real Food Class’ in Kilkenny College, we held a blindfold comparative tasting at the final exhibition evening last year and there were only 1 or 2 people out of 80 who didn’t prefer Ring chickens to a factory reared chicken.
This recipe may seem a bit over the top with the garlic quantities, but don’t worry–it isn’t! (The garlic is parboiled so it softens the edges , and blended with the lemon, wine, mustard, etc. it makes for a delicious final goo!).
For the Garlic & Lemon Marinade: 90grams (unpeeled weight) garlic, 150 mls. extra virgin olive oil (You can use 100 mls. Extra virgin olive oil and 50 mls. of a lemon olive oil if desired), 75 mls. freshly squeezed lemon juice, 50 mls. dry white wine, 2 tsp. dijon mustard, 7 mls. sea salt,lots of freshly ground black pepper and 20 mls. caster sugar,
Separate, but do not peel, the cloves of garlic and place in a small saucepan. Cover with water and cover the saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until they are still soft, but still firm (not mushy).Drain and allow to cool slightly. Squeeze the cooked garlic out of the skins into a handwhisk container thingy-majig (something tall enough to allow you to use an electric handwhisk without the mixture splashing all over you!). Add the remaining ingredients (Oils, lemon juice, wine, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar) and whiz with an electric mixer until you have a thick puree. Chop a teaspoon or two of fresh rosemary leaves and stir into the puree or some fresh oregano.
Spatchcock a ‘real’ chicken (see above!). Now here’s something I learnt today, the word ‘spatchcock‘ is allegedly of Irish origin and comes from cookery books of the 18th and 19th centuries and has, of course been revived now. Allegedly the word is an abbreviation of ‘dispatch cock’ (I swear, I’m not making it up!).; a phrase used to indicate a summary way of grilling a bird after splitting it down the back and spreading the bird flat out. You can either use a sharp butcher’s knife or kitchen scissors to either cut out the backbone (I ususally do this and boil the backbone to make chicken stock), or just cut down one side of the backbone and then flatten the chicken out. Not only does this reduce cooking time, but when you are marinating a bird there is more contact with the meat and the marinade when the bird is laying flat. Take a sharp knife and make gashes into the flesh. I usually insert a few more slivers of raw garlic into some of the gashes.!! Rub the marinade into the gashes and all over and under the bird. Tuck a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or oregano, if using, around the bird . Cover first with baking parchment (the marinade will eat a hole through tin foil), and then with foil. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours at least or overnight. Take the bird out of the fridge 20 minutes before cooking to come up to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F and bake, covered until the chicken is cooked. (Usual method for a chicken is 20 minutes to start, then 20 minutes to the pound, but this method of cooking usually takes 10-15 minutes to the pound). The bird will be quite pale, having been cooked covered, but will also be very moist. Remove the foil and baking parchment and turn the oven up to 200 C/400 F. Baste the bird well with the juices in the pan. Return to the oven and every 10 minutes, take the bird out and baste until it becomes brown like such: Any more and that chicken was toast! You want the brown bits, but no more than that!. Lift the chicken onto a new baking tray, cover again with the foil and allow to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes. The juices around the pan have now turned into a divine, and I do mean divine, goo. Don’t scrape the pan like you would for a gravy. Just pour the good bits into a gravy bowl and boom you have gravy; (uh oh….I feel a Barefoot Contessa moment coming on ( N.B. will later be referred to as a BCM) “How easy is that?”…don’t you just LOVE her?).
Oh yeah! While your chicken was cooking, you made the bulghar!! For that you can use vegetables you have loitering around the kitchen (Hate loitering vegetables, they’re so distracting when you’re trying to cook!), but you should always include some onion and garlic. (of course I’d say that!)
I used: I yellow onion (4 oz. weight, peeled and chopped finely), 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped, 4 fl. oz. each chopped leeks and chopped carrots, 1 large stick of celery de-strung (is that what you call it? Don’t like the stringy bits sticking in my throat!), and chopped, 1 long red chilli, finely chopped (it’s optional, but this dish can hold the heat of the chilli with the seeds and membrane included).I heated 4 Tablespoons Olive oil in a deep frying pan over a medium heat and added the vegetables. I stirred the contents of the pan regularly until the vegetables were soft. I measured 6fl. oz. coarse bulgar and added that to the pan, stirring to coat the grains with oil. If you’re preparing this for vegetarians then you will be using vegetable stock at this point, but this time I used chicken stock. I added 6 fl. oz. chicken stock to the pan and stirred until the bulgar absorbed the liquid (only takes a few minutes). I then added 2 dessertspoons of Pomegranate Molasses and 1 Tablespoon tomato puree and stirred well. Then I added a further 6 fl. oz. chicken stock, reduced the heat, covered and allowed to cook for approx. 10 minutes (keep an eye on it in case it dries out ) until all the liquid was absorbed. Separate the grains with a fork and stir in 2 Tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped and 1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped. I then sliced the chicken and served with the bulghar and a sprig of rosemary and spooned some of the goo over the chicken. GPFRR (Goose pimples for the right reasons)! There was a green salad somewhere too, but hey I’m human….forgot to photograph that!!!
The left-overs of this are amazing and there’s lots of it. The bulghar can be eaten as a cold salad (with some feta crumbled over it makes it into a meal as previously stated) and the chicken makes excellent chicken tacos or wraps as well as delicious sandwiches with some of the goo stirred into a bit of mayonnaise or spread onto bread as is.
Try it, and let us know what you think!