keckek el fouqara – poor man’s cheese

Mix bulgur (cracked, cooked, dried wheat) with yogurt, ferment and dry the mixture, and you’ve got a cheesy flavourful food called “kishk”.

If you’ve not got yogurt, make non-dairy “poor man’s kishk” or “keckek el fouqara” instead. Mix some bulgur with about 1 1/2 times the volume of water, and a little salt, pack into a jar, cover, and let ferment for two or three weeks depending on room temperature. Mix and pack it down again, every day or two.

Once it becomes mushy and develops a tangy taste, mix with herbs and spices of your choice and form into balls. The flavours I chose were crushed garlic, ground red and black peppercorns, salt, cumin, fennel seed, and sage. Stack the balls in a jar, and cover with good olive oil. It is surprisingly flavoursome at this stage, and the flavour should improve over a few months of storage.

This is one of the most unusual ferments I’ve seen, in that no special protective measures are taken. A critical step in most ferments is to exclude air to avoid spoilage (in the case of sauerkraut, by submerging under brine), but in this case the bulgur is exposed to air with no harm. Kahm yeast (a thin white layer on top) formed, but this is fine to mix back in.

Inspired by Sandor Katz’ book “The Art of Fermentation”, page 243.

Fermenting:

IMGP9652

Finished:

IMGP9748

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7 thoughts on “keckek el fouqara – poor man’s cheese

  1. Hi Rose, the texture was like a soft cheese and the taste was very tangy and complex. I can’t think of a particular cheese to relate to it in taste. I’ve mainly used it as a sort of dip for veggie sticks or chips, when mixed with sour cream. It kept for several months in olive oil before we moved and I put it in storage. If I remember I’ll let you know how it is when I pull it out of storage. I think it will be aged around 7 months at that stage (need to check my records).

  2. Rose – I have one bit of this left after a year and a half or so, and it’s kept very well. Flavour has changed very little while in storage – if anything it’s gotten tangier. It’s about time to make a new batch.

  3. Hello. I am glad to find your result is positive. 🙂

    – How much salt you took?
    – For what reason you covered the jar with polyethylene? I think, the grains must to breathe and using a towel, as in the case of dough proofing, seems more logical.?
    – “in this case the bulgur is exposed to air with no harm.” — How do you think, why?!

    With respect and best wishes

  4. Hello johnlennon10, here are some answers to your questions:
    -I didn’t measure the amount of salt, sorry. I tend to use my intuition and taste when adding salt to fermented foods. My guess is that there was about one litre of the bulgur mix, and one teaspoon of salt.
    -The recipe I was given had no specific instructions about covering or not covering the ferment, so I covered it because I suspected this would reduce the contamination of the ferment, and it worked fine. If you make a batch covered with a towel, please let me know how well it works for you!
    -I assume that the fermenting bulgur develops enough CO2 and acidity to avoid spoilage, even though it is exposed to air. Having it covered might have also helped. And stirring it at least once a day would have also helped to avoid the top layer being overly exposed to the organisms in the air.

  5. Thanks for your responses. I think your experience is the singular positive that I found on the Internet.

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