Bulgur and rice are two of the mainstays of Turkish cuisine. Economical, easy to prepare and suitable for serving at a banquet or a simple supper, these two nourishing foods are often at the heart of traditional Turkish food.

Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes
Anatolian kitchen -sebzeli bulgur pilavi

A pilaf, (pilav or pilau) accompanies many dishes in Turkish cuisine and is sometimes even the meal itself. It’s tasty, healthy and a firm favourite with visitors to the country, as it is with Turks themselves. So much so, that many of our readers, wherever they live, tell us they want to add it to their culinary repertoire.

Last week we explained how to make rice pilaf. In this article we share some of the many delicious recipes that have bulgur at their main ingredient. But first we should explain which type should be used for which dish.

Turkish groats

Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes
uncooked bulgur

Turkish bulgur is a cereal food made from the groats of whole wheat (usually durum), which is partially boiled then dried. Also sometimes called cracked wheat – it comes in two sizes – coarse and fine. In Turkey, the coarse is normally used for pilaf and salads, so this is the one you need to buy for the following recipes.

Freekeh

Freaked (firik in Turkish) is a cereal food made from green durum wheat that is roasted and rubbed. It has a unique flavour.

Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes
Freekeh

It is an ancient dish derived from Levantine and North African cuisines remaining popular in many countries of the eastern Mediterranean Basin where durum wheat originated.

Bulgur pilaf with tomatoes

Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes
Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes ytimg.com domatesli

As with our rice pilaf we use a standard measure, which could serve four people with modest appetites, three people with healthy appetites or two gluttons.

Ingredients

1 250 cc (large) mug of coarse bulgur (rinsed in cold water)
1 medium size grated onion
2 large grated tomatoes
1 red and 2 green peppers – finely chopped (long variety – the green ones can have a bit of a kick)
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large walnut size piece of butter
1½ cups water, chicken or vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper and salt

A saucepan with a close fitting lid and a (clean) tea towel

Method

Heat the oil and butter in the saucepan, until it’s sizzling. Add the grated onion, cover and sweat over a medium heat for a few minutes before adding the chopped peppers. Replace the lid for a couple of minutes and then add the grated tomatoes and paste. Then tip in the rinsed bulgur. Stir, season and stir in the water (or stock, if using).

Cover the pan and cook over a medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes. If you have to add more water do it very carefully, as there should be none left by the time the bulgur is cooked. Whip off the lid and cover with the clean tea towel, before replacing the lid. Leave to rest for about 10 minutes. This removes any remaining moisture.

Your pilaf is now ready to serve. Whether you pile it directly onto your plate, onto a serving dish or press into a small cup or dariole mould, before carefully inverting it onto the plate.

This recipe is for a basic bulgur pilaf but it can be spiced up with the addition of pul biber (chilli flakes), given an extra umami flavour with a few chopped dried tomatoes.

We think this is just as tasty served cold as it is hot.

A few more ideas

Bulgur can also be used as a base for vegetables, with or without meat.

Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes
Bulgur with freekah, green beans and red onions ozlemsturkishtable.com

One of our favourites is this recipe from Özlem’s Turkish Table for bulgur pilaf with freekeh green beans and red onions

Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes
Bulgur with meat aytac.com

Bulgur pilaf with meat is a very substantial and tasty dish. This recipe from Aytaç is one we use for relaxed suppers or dinner parties.

Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes
kısır – Turkish bulgur salad ozlemsturkishtable.com

Whether summer or winter, bulgur salad, called kısır in Turkish, is a perfect accompaniment to meat, fish or veggie dishes. But it can also be served as a delicious stand-alone lunch or supper dish.

Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes
Köfte with bulgur almostturkish.blogspot.com.tr

Bulgur can be used to bulk up köfte. This means less meat is required, so it is very economical. Here is a recipe from almost turkish recipes that is very similar to our own.

Bulgur: the heart of so many Turkish dishes
Ezo gelin soup ozlemsturkishtable.com

Bulgur also forms the base of a delicious soup – called ezo gelin.

That’s all for now… Afiyet olsun!