This is an Ottolenghi recipe from his book, Simple. Ottolenghi + Simple are not two words I’d normally put together. His recipes often contain very long lists of ingredients and are quite complicated. However, I was completely addicted to his Jerusalem book when it first came out in 2012 and cooked from it endlessly. Some of the recipes, like Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini & Za’atar remain family favourites that are still frequently made. That’s not an especially complicated one, but some do take a lot of time and a lot of ingredients. Hence the immediate attraction of Simple. Not surprisingly, my definition of ‘simple’ is not quite the same as Ottolenghi’s. There’s a wonderful sounding Blueberry, Almond & Lemon Cake in it but it requires complicated cooking that involves taking the cake out of the oven a couple of times mid-cooking and really … if I’m making a loaf-tin cake I just want to beat all the ingredients together, tip it all into a tin, put it in the oven and leave it until it’s done.
But then – his food is a miracle. I’ve been to his flagship restaurant and store in Islington a couple of times in recent years and the food is exceptional. You can tell as you eat it that ‘complicated’ = ‘amazing with layers of taste’. It’s that incredible kind of food that stops you in your tracks; you taste and think it’s great, then as you continue to eat another layer of flavour reveals itself, and then yet another, so the whole eating experience is like a wondrous food journey.
I wanted to make something with bulgur wheat. When I was in Comptoir Libanais with Freddie last Thursday he loved the tabbouleh on my mezze plate and we ended up sharing it (kids have very sophisticated tastes these days!). So out came my books at home – Ottolenghi, Moro, and various ‘middle eastern’ others – and I came across this recipe in Ottolenghi Simple. It sounded so wonderful, I just had to make it. And as it turned out, it was actually quite simple. I served it with some lamb kofte but it would make a great vegetarian meal on its own. I ate it warm with supper but it would also make a nice cold ‘salad’ meal too, so is eminently versatile.
(I halved Ottolenghi’s recipe and thus made slight adjustments.)
Bulgur with Tomato, Aubergine & Preserved Lemon Yoghurt
Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as a side dish
- 1 aubergine, cut into roughly 3cm chunks
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely sliced
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ tablespoon tomato purée
- 125g bulgur wheat
- 100g Greek yoghurt
- ½ preserved lemon, with pips removed and finely chopped (12g)
- 5g fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
Cook the aubergine first. Preheat an oven to 220C/Fan 200/Gas 7. Cut the aubergine into biggish chunks. Put in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Mix with your hands and lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until nicely browned, turning halfway through cooking.
Put the sliced onion in a large frying pan (for which you have a lid) with the oil and cook for about 8 minutes on a medium heat until soft and slightly caramelising. Add the garlic and allspice. Mix well and cook for another minute.
Add the cherry tomatoes. Cook for a couple of minutes and mash down a bit with a potato masher. Add the tomato purée, 200ml water and a little salt. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer, put the lid on the pan, and leave for 12 minutes. Check the seasoning.
Add the bulgur wheat. Stir in well then remove from the heat. Put the lid back on the pan and leave for 20 minutes off the heat for the bulgur to absorb the sauce and soften.
While the bulgur is finishing ‘cooking’ make the yoghurt sauce. Put the yoghurt, preserved lemon and half the mint in a bowl and mix together. Taste and season with a little salt in necessary, but preserved lemon is quite salty so you may not need any more.
When the bulgur is ready, transfer to a serving bowl. Flatten a bit and lay the roasted aubergine pieces on top. Then spoon the yoghurt sauce on top of the aubergine. Sprinkle over the remaining mint.
It looked and smelled fantastic and it was truly gorgeous to eat.
It was a great accompaniment to my lamb kofte, with a green salad on the side.
But as I said above, it would also make a great vegetarian dish on its own.
I plan to have the rest tomorrow cold – or at room temperature – as a salad supper. I can see this becoming a great favourite and can’t wait to try it out on the family.