Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Silk road bulghur salad or transcaucasian delight

The bright colours and bursting flavours of this salad are particularly welcome on a drizzly day. The pomegranate seeds look like jewels, and the dark green of the herbs is accented by the pale green of the pistachios. The flavours and textures combine to make very enjoyable mouthfuls, sharp and sweet, aromatic and savoury, and satisfyingly filling.

The recipe comes from a combination of cooking that I suppose could be called transcaucasian. I’ve been travelling the silk road in my kitchen, I was already familiar with middle eastern and Turkish cookery, and I’ve travelled a little bit further. I suppose you could compare it to tabbouleh.

It is what the French call a salade composée, a mixed salad, or a put together salad. The French make a big deal of such things, although many salads have more than one ingredient, even a green salad.

I’ve been known to complain about long lists of ingredients needed for some recipes, and I hope this recipe doesn’t put anyone off. The ingredients are now easily available in London and many wholefood and supermarkets – pomegranate seeds can be seen alongside sandwiches offered as a lunchtime snack. Currants are traditional standard of the store cupboard, used in old style baking, eccles cakes and squashed fly biscuits. I love their name, evolved from the way the French say Corinth, where they first came from. 

I’m writing this in March, slightly at the end of the pomegranate season this side of the globe. If you are reading this and can’t find pomegranates you can use another sour flavour such as barberries, lingonberries or such, but they won’t give that exploding in the mouth pleasure, rather flavour and a bit more chew. If you can’t find bulghur brown rice would work. Of course if you start substituting too many things then you won’t be making this salad.

I add a pinch of gomasio, which gives an extra dimension. Because sometimes more is more. 

Preparation: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, sharp knife, medium sized bowl

(For cooking bulghur see information at the end)

1 cup (or mug) of cooked wholewheat bulghur
Small bunch  of fresh mint
Small bunch  of fresh parsley
Small bunch  of fresh coriander
3 spring onions
Seeds of small pomegranate (1 cup)
1 tbsp currants
2 tbsp shelled pistachios

Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 mandarin or Satsuma or tangerine
3tbsp olive oil
1 tsp honey
Generous drizzle of pomegranate molasses
Salt and pepper


Chop the herbs as fine as you can
Slice the spring onions as thin as you can
Chop the pistachios – but not too fine

Put the cooked bulghur into medium sized serving bowl
Add the chopped herbs, sliced spring onions and chopped pistachios
Add the pomegranate seeds and currants

Add the lemon juice, olive oil, mandarin juice, honey and pomegranate molasses and stir well and add salt and pepper to taste.


Cook the bulghur as usual or as follows:
Warm one tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan over a gentle heat and add a half cup of bulghur, shaking it around in the pan until it is coated in oil
Add a cup of stock and bring to the boil, and then to a simmer
Put a lid on the pan and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes, covered, then turn off and leave, covered, for five minutes
After this check the bulghur is nice and chewy, and not sticking to the bottom of the pan. There should be no liquid.

NB bulghur can vary hugely, and you may need to adjust the cooking of the bulghur in your store cupboard accordingly

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