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Bulgar Pilaf



Level: Beginner


2 red onions
1 celery stick
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 × 400g can green or brown lentils, drained and rinsed
200g bulgar wheat
50g golden raisins
325ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
15g pine nuts
15g pistachio nuts (salted or unsalted according to preference)
small handful freshly chopped parsley
½ lemon
salt and ground black pepper


Although the cooking principle is the same as in the traditional rice versions, using bulgar instead of rice in a pilaf completely changes the texture and essence of the dish – bulgar wheat has a lovely nutty texture. Here I’ve upped the crunch factor by adding pine nuts and pistachios to the mixture to create a deeply savoury side. It’s the perfect complement to a soft, yielding main, such as the Seabass with Date Purée (page 82) or any grilled fish dish.

Chop one red onion and the celery and put them in a pan with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cook over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the onion starts to turn golden.

Stir in the garlic and spices and cook for a minute or two until you can smell their aroma. Season well at this stage.

Add the lentils, bulgar wheat and raisins and stir to mix all the ingredients together. Pour the stock over the top then put a lid on the pan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat right down to the lowest setting and allow the bulgar to slowly steam in the liquid.

If you want a nutty bite, do this for 10 minutes. For the bulgar to have a soft texture, cook for 14-15 minutes. Resist lifting the lid when the bulgar is cooking, or the precious steam will escape.

Meanwhile, finely slice the other red onion. Stir-fry in a frying pan with the remaining olive oil and the pine nuts and pistachios over a medium heat for 5-8 minutes until the onion caramelises and softens. The slivers will be golden and cooked down, and the nuts will have started to colour, too. Season well.

Fluff up the pilaf with a fork, stir in half the parsley and squeeze over the juice from the lemon half. Spoon into a bowl and top with the remaining parsley and the onion and nut mixture.