Bulgur wheat pilaf with onions, tomatoes and peppers
My cousin asked me recently what to feed his 15 month old baby. Our children have been eating mainly what we have been eating (with the condition of compromising from the seasoning and adding more salt and spices on our own plate), we have been lucky. And that’s what I have suggested to him. Turkish food provides a healthy and balanced diet to the children too and this bulgur pilaf with vegetables would be a healthy and delicious option to give to them – my children enjoy it greatly!
Often confused with cracked wheat, bulgur wheat is a grain made from cooked whole wheat berries, which have had the bran removed, and is then dried in the sun and crushed. As it has already been cooked, it requires little cooking to reconstitute itself. It is available coarsely and finely ground. For pilaf, the coarser type is used, to create a nutty and delicious dish, which is a meal in itself and served with yoghurt. Bulgur has been a major staple in many rural areas in Turkey; during the Ottoman Period, the rice was a very precious commodity that only the rich could afford. This made the bulgur a very popular option and healthy one too. It is reach in fiber and provides good source of protein.
350 gr/ 12 oz/ 2 cups of coarse organic bulgur wheat, rinsed and drained
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
15 ml / 1 tablespoon olive oil
30 ml / 2 tablespoons butter
400 gr /14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
600 ml / 1 pint / 2 1/2 cup hot vegetable or chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt – please adjust to your taste –
freshly ground black pepper
chopped parsley for garnish – optional-
Rinse the bulgur under cold running water, drain and set a side.
Sauté the chopped onions in olive oil and butter until soft. Add the green bell pepper and chopped tomatoes, cook for another minute. Add the stock (or water) and bring to boil.
Add the bulgur, salt and ground pepper and stir once. Cover and cook over a low heat until the bulgur has absorbed all the stock and stem holes are visible on the surface. It is important not to stir the pilaf during this time. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan with a cloth or absorbent kitchen paper and the lid over the top. The bulgur will continue cooking in the steam and the cloth will absorb any excess moisture. Leave to stand covered, for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Delicious and wholesome bulgur wheat with onions, tomatoes and peppers
Fluff up the pilaf with a fork and serve hot, garnished with a sprinkling of chopped parsley if you would like.
We made Kisir today with the children. We talked about how important it is for us to be able to share and have an access to the recipes from our mothers, grandmothers, and be able to pass on to friends, family and to the next generation. More than being recipes, they really reflect our heritage, culture, traditions and keep the memories alive.
So here comes kisir, from my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table. Kisir is a specialty in the southeast of Turkey, from where the country’s spicier dishes hail. It is offered as a welcome to the guests in the homes of Antakya, where my roots are from, and in Gaziantep. Kisir is generally made with nar eksisi (sour pomegranate molasses) instead of lemon juice – though it is common to use lemon juice for Kisir at northwest Turkey. It can be rolled into balls and served nestling in crunchy lettuce leaves. This dish is perfect for buffets or as part of a barbecue spread. It really is a “bowl of health and goodness” with fresh vegetables, bulgur – packed with fiber and pomegranate sauce full of antioxidants.
This wonderful, refreshing can be prepared a couple of days in advance and can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days. As a matter of fact, it tastes even better a day or two later it’s made! I hope you can get to try the recipe. If you can’t find pomegranate molasses, a good balsamic vinegar and lemon juice also works well in this bulgur wheat salad. Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi is used widely in this salad in Southern Turkish cooking; you can always make your own red pepper paste, here is my recipe.
Note: There are two main varieties of bulgur wheat available, fine and coarse bulgur. Fine bulgur is traditionally used in salads like kisir whereas coarse bulgur is used in pilafs or As as we call it in Antakya. If you can’t get the fine bulgur wheat, you can also make this salad with coarse bulgur, widely available in supermarkets. In that case, use 240ml/8 fl oz hot water for 175gr/6oz coarse bulgur and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, covered.
Serves 4 – 6
Preparation time: 25 minutes
350gr/12oz fine bulgur wheat
240ml/8 fl oz hot water
15ml/1 tablespoon tomato paste
15ml/1 tablespoon red pepper paste (optional)
5ml / 1 teaspoon pul biber, chili flakes or red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lemon
30ml/ 2 tablespoon concentrated sour pomegranate molasses, nar eksisi
45ml/3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 green (spring) onions, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
Small bunch of finely chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
5ml / 1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pomegranate seeds to serve (optional)
Lettuce leaves to serve
Mix the bulgur wheat, salt, ground black pepper, red pepper flakes (or paprika or chili flakes), tomato paste, red pepper paste and the chopped onion and knead thoroughly – this will help all the flavors marry and the onion to soften-. Pour the hot water over this mixture and stir, then leave to stand for about 15 minutes. It should absorb all the water by the end of this period. The bulgur should be of a dry consistency.
Add the lemon juice and the pomegranate molasses together with the extra virgin olive oil and knead well again. Stir in the remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly.
Image by Sian Irvine Photography, from Ozlem’s Turkish table cookery book
Serve as a salad in a bowl garnished with pomegranate seeds (if preferred) and lettuce leaves. Alternatively, take spoonfuls of the mixture and with wet hands roll into balls the size of walnuts. Refrigerate until required.
I am absolutely delighted to share with you that we also designed this special Ozlem’s Turkish Table apron, just in time for the holiday gift giving season. It is special to my heart, as it is made in Turkey, with my hometown Antakya’s celebrated daphne leaves in the hand embroidered design – this lovely apron would make a wonderful gift for the festive season, you can get yours at this link. Delivered worldwide including the US.
Ozlem’s Turkish Table Interview with TRT Radio 1 (Turkish National Radio 1)
It’s been an honor to be interviewed by the Turkish National Radio, TRT Radyo 1, at the Gunebakan Program today, talking about Turkish cuisine abroad. A special moment for me, talking in Turkish, at my homeland’s national radio channel. As we talked during the interview, our recipes are valuable gateways to share our thousands years of our culinary heritage with the world and pass on to the next generations. Also living abroad, I well know how precious our food is to connect us to our homeland, our memories and bring our stories to life. It is such a privilege to share my homeland Turkey’s amazing culinary heritage, traditions, recipes, hospitality, through these precious opportunities and my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland. My sincere thanks goes to GB Publishing and Pinar Foods UK for helping me spread the word on wholesome, delicious Turkish cuisine.
Here is the link to our interview with TRT Radio 1, I hope you enjoy it: