I discovered this recipe, for most “the turkish version of tabbouleh”, from Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty (one of my favourite cookbooks together with his first book). I searched for it on the web to learn more about this dish and found two photos that didn’t make it to the print, but that speak for themselves, one in his own blog and another in his The Guardian Column “The New Vegetarian”. I’ve got to admit, that I am quite visual, so I get more inspired by photos than usually by recipes. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it!
Not that long ago, I had bought some different grades/coarseness of bulghur wheat to play around my take on tabbouleh, for which I undoubtedly preferred the fine grind. I’ve read various recipes in which they suggest the use of cracked wheat instead of bulghur, for those who may be confussed as to the difference between the two. As far as I know, bulghur is durum wheat kernels, bran removed, parboiled and then dried and cracked to different sizes. Whereas cracked wheat is just that cracked wheat, meaning it isn’t previously cooked, so it will take longer to cook. So, if you do use cracked wheat for any of these recipes, count on longer cooking times and more liquid to hydrate it.
Anyway, about the coarseness I’ve chosen for this salad/side-dish, although I’ve read that it is often done with fine bulghur, I preferred the bite the coarser grind brings much better. Plus, since in Ottolenghi’s recipe a “sofrito” is made rather than all ingredients mixed into the cooked wheat, the coarser bulghur absorbs more flavour and stays well separated to be then mixed with all the herbs and vegetables of choice. The only BUT is that I was missing two ingredients from Ottolenghi’s list: the pomegranate molasses (which are used in the south of Turkey to season this dish instead of the lemon juice to give it it’s sour notes)…PLEASE anyone who knows where to find sour pomegranate molasses in Spain, let me know!!!I’ve been looking for it for over a year, no joke! And the other, which is also for looks are the pomegranate seeds, now expensive and not in season…so I used some broken up walnuts instead, which I find go really well!Other than that, all I can do is INSIST you give it a try, it won’t disappoint you!
Kısır (adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty recipe)
(enough for 4 generous servings)
400g of coarse bulghur
2 medium onions, finely chopped up
optional: 1 garlic clove
about 75g of olive oil, plus extra to drizzle to the finished salad
1,5 tbsp of concentrated tomato purée (I used this)
1/2 tbsp of red bell pepper paste*
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced
optional: some cherry tomatoes cut in half or more fresh tomatoes diced
200g of water (he uses much less, but also suggests the medium bulghur)
1 tsp of ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
about 2 tbsp of lemon juice or to taste
a handful of parsley, lightly shredded
a handful of mint leaves, lightly shredded
1 spring onion or the tender stalks of 3 or 4
a handful of walnuts, broken up a bit
*Ottolenghi does not use this paste, which is traditional in this dish, but instead adds green chillies. I substituted it for Harissa hot sauce. But if you have neither, just use 2tbsp of tomato paste and some dried chilli flakes to give it a quick!
Now, for the super simple recipe, make a sofrito with the onion, finely chopped up in brunoise and the olive oil (and the garlic, if you like, I didn’t add any either here or when seasoning). Cook over lowe heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
Then, add the tomato and pepper paste, cook a little bit and add the chopped up tomatoes and further cook for 5 minutes or so. Add the water,season to taste and bring it to a boil and stir in the bulghur. Inmediately, turn the heat off and cover so that the liquid get’s absorbed and the bulghur softens a bit, for about 15 minutes. It should get “al dente”, neither crunchy not mushy…so it’s always best to err on the crunchy side, as you can add more boiling water and cover to soften some more to taste.
When ready, leave uncovered until it comes to room temperature. Then, season to taste with extra salt if needed, pepper, the cumin, the lemon juice and pomegranate if available...it should be slightly on the soury side, to bring out that freshness. Add the finely sliced spring onion, the broken up walnuts and when ready to serve the herbs lightly shredded or whole if the leaves are very small like in the picture. If you like, you can also add some finely chopped up cucumber or more tomatoes.