Finally…Mrs.Shopkeeper’s Secret Recipe for Bulgar Pilavi….

Now that it has gone off our restaurant menu, or, more importantly, now that Mrs. S. has an hour spare, we hereby offer our much sought after recipe (well, one or two people have asked) for our take on an old Ottoman classic, bulgar pilavi. A fragrant pilav made not with the newer fangled rice, but with the oldest Middle Eastern carb, wheat.* A dish that looks a whole lot better when it’s cooked than our photo of random raw ingredients above. Mrs.Shopkeeper really is a bit shite at photography.

Ingredients (to serve 4, generously)

  • 250g bulgur wheat
  • 100g reshteh pulao (optional, but rather conveniently available here)**
  • 1 tablespoon baharat – Iraqi seven spice mix, also conveniently available here
  • about 400ml boiling water
  • a good slug of oil (we use an olive and pomace oil mix)
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced (red work best here)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 heaped teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons nigella seeds
  • 1 fat courgette, julienned
  • 30g dried sour orange peel
  • 2 level teaspoons salt (seems a lot but this is all the seasoning for the dish, and bulgur wheat needs proper seasoning otherwise it tastes like crispy kapok)
  • 1 teaspoon urfa chilli (or use cracked black pepper)

For the topping:

  • 50g or so butter (or vegan equivalent)
  • dash of oil
  • around 20 fat, pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons baharat (see above)
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 50g raisins, soaked in cold water and drained

To serve:

  • good, thick plain yoghurt
  • a crisp green salad

So you place your wheat, noodles and baharat in a heat proof bowl and add boiling water. Stir, cover and allow the ingredients to steam for around 10 minutes, adding more boiling water if the wheat still seems hard after that time (wheat varies so it is hard to offer a generic rule for water volume and soaking times).
Next heat a good glug of oil in a frying pan and fry off the onions and carrots; once they have softened add the spices and courgette, stirring well. Turn down the heat, cover the pan, and allow to cook very slowly for about another fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are just cooked.
Bring a small pan of water to the boil, add the sour orange peel and blanch for about one minute before draining. Add the sour orange peel, salt and pepper to the sauteeing vegetables, stirring well. Allow the wheat/veg combo to cool slightly before ‘massaging’ the spiced veg through the wheat (you will need to use your hands, gloved or otherwise, for this), much as you might couscous. The idea is to get every grain of the bulgur coated with oil and flavour.
Now for the topping. Melt the butter in a pan, add a dash of oil to stop it burning, and then toss in the dates. After a couple of minutes add the spice and nuts, and after a few minutes more add the raisins (alway add these last – they burn quickly).
Heat the bulgur wheat through so it is piping hot, and then serve in a bowl topped with the ‘date and nut fudge’. Serve with yoghurt and salad. You’re welcome.
*Coeliacs and those with wheat intolerance can make a very good version of this with corn couscous or quinoa, whilst barley and rye berries also serve well for those who are not actually avoiding gluten.
**These are Iranian noodles, but you can buy broken vermicelli from most Middle Eastern shops. Or you can cheat and buy our ready mixed wheat and noodles.
I would love to say that rice noodles work just as well, but in this context they really don’t – they just end up soggy and sticky. So if you are off the wheat, just leave the noodles out and maybe use 300g grain instead.

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