Son Cem (pron: Jem) flew in from London very recently for a lightning visit. We were all prepared for him to stay on the other side (of the Bosphorus) with Daughter No 1 who lives in trendy Cihangir but to our joy, the thought of the comforts of ‘home’ prevailed and home he came proving yet again,
East, west, home’s best!
Of course part of the attraction is finding good food in the fridge and on the table! I had made a cake in anticipation – more of that another time – as I knew that we would certainly see him at some stage, but nothing much else. We ourselves don’t eat a lot of meat but Cem is a true Turk in this respect: he loves it. Call it intuition or something, very luckily I had bought and frozen some bonfilet/fillet steak just the week before which was quickly defrostable. (The butcher had described it as ‘lokum gibi’ – as tender as Turkish Delight!) But of course it needed something to go with it so I seized the opportunity of making this bulgur pilavı which I’d had up my sleeve for some time. You see, when it is just my husband and me, we try hard to eat healthily. Instead of potatoes or rice, we have a slice of brown bread, for example. But this turned out to be a real treat for all of us as you will see!
I made this pilaf from Refika’s Cooking New Istanbul Style and it was so successful that we had three helpings each! Can you imagine! As usual, what her recipe lacks in detail, it more than makes up for in scrumptiousness. Here is the recipe somewhat interpreted by me:
Ingredients for Refika’s Bulgur Pilavı
Serves 6 – 8
2 cups bulgur (large grain)
2 medium onions, chopped
2 tbsp pepper paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tomatoes, grated
4 cloves garlic, each cut into 8 pieces
1 tin chickpeas (400g)
½ carrot, grated
hot water – about 4 cups*
1-2 tbsp olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme ( I used dried kekik)
Red flaked pepper/dried mint/ sumak/sumac/ salt and pepper to taste
· Gently saute the chopped onion in the olive oil. Add the garlic. When the onion starts to soften, add the grated tomato. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add both the pepper paste and the tomato paste.
· Add the washed bulgur and stir. Add the grated carrot, chickpeas and spices. Pour in the hot water to a level of about 3 cm above the ingredients. (Check note below).
· As Refika says, the mixture in the pot may look like a soup at first, but you will be surprised at how the bulgur will absorb the liquid.
· Bring to the boil then lower the heat and cover with the lid. Check every 10 mins or so. Resist the temptation to stir while it is cooking. You will know it’s done when little pits ‘like small craters’ emerge in the bulgur. Taste one grain just to make sure.
· Turn off the heat and let it rest still with the lid on for 15 minutes. Give it a good stir so that all the ingredients are evenly mixed together and serve!
1. Refika is not specific about how much water to add and I know that if you are not used to cooking bulgur, you might agonize over the amount. I have checked other recipes and see that for this quantity of bulgur, about 4 cups water is recommended. But I wouldn’t worry. Bulgur isn’t vulnerable like rice: the grains will not collapse or go soggy. And if more water is needed, just go ahead and add it but make sure it is hot. Bulgur is a very accommodating grain. The resulting pilaf should be moist but not wet.
2. A good tip at the end, when you have turned the heat off, is to place a clean dry teatowel over the pan and place the lid on top. Then it can rest and the excess moisture is absorbed into the teatowel.
3. A word about grating tomatoes: this is a very Turkish thing to do and it works a treat, especially with those nice juicy Çanakkale summer tomatoes. This way you don’t need to open a tin!
I defy you not to like this! Go on, try it!