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They’re small, grainy and yellowish in colour – couscous, bulgur and polenta are milled grains of cereal products and at first glance they look alike. Their different origins are interesting and you cook them in different ways.


Couscous is a staple of north African cuisine. It’s made of semolina, ie, milled durum wheat, barley or millet. The semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled to form very small pellets that are sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate. Most people buy instant couscous, which has been presteamed and simply needs to be left to swell up in hot water and then fluffed up with butter and salt. Couscous is a tasty alternative for fish, meat and vegetables; it can also be added to soups and stews.


Bulgur originates from the Near East and it’s usually made from durum wheat. The grains are soaked, steamed, dried and only then milled. Bulgur has a slightly nutty flavour and it doesn’t need to be boiled, simply allowed to swell in hot water or bouillon. Try making tabouleh, a well-known Lebanese dish made of bulgur, tomatoes, mint and olive oil.


Polenta is made of corn semolina which is usually available as a fine- or coarse-grained product. It can be served on its own with parmesan and melted butter, or as an accompaniment to meat dishes and stews.



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