When I was a kid and living in Bakirkoy, Istanbul, we used to go to a kebab place called “Istanbul Kebapcisi” every once in a while as a family for a weekend lunch. It was a bit dark (because of heavy use of wood), meat-ful of place and even though I liked the food, I always secretly wished we went to a fancier place. The food was quite good though, at least as far as I can remember. Any kebab we ordered, red meat or chicken, was always served with bulgur pilaf.
At that time, I don’t remember ever having stomach problems related to bulgur. I mean ok, I was reaaally young, but still… Whether with kebab or not, I always liked bulgur pilaf, or anything made with bulgur. Until a few years ago..
I think it was 2013 or maybe 2014, can’t remember the details, I was making a co-cooking project for my Master’s Thesis and a friend taught me a recipe with bulgur as part of this project. It was delicious and I had a nice time making and eating but then… then I became a massive balloon on my way home in the bus and I had the most horrible pain… ahh, flatulence… So for years, I was scared to eat it again, until today. I couldn’t resist my craving for bulgur anymore and I made this pilaf. 6 hours in, and I still have no problem yet, yayyy!!
Well, I gave some nasty details about how my body functions in the story part of the recipe this time, so I will just stop here. I’ll just say this though. Last winter when I was in Istanbul, I went to Istanbul Kebapcisi again, after many many, MANY, years (I was still not a vegetarian at that point). They changed the interior, painted it white, lots of light inside. It felt like another place. It still wasn’t fancy. But then I thought of all those family lunches there, when I wished to be eating somewhere else. I thought how much I missed the beauty of that moment, there and then. I would now do anything to eat together with all my family again, and I wouldn’t care less where we eat.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium size onions, diced
4 green banana peppers*, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can chopped tomatoes with juice (1 can = 400 gr.)
1/2 tbsp capsicum paste**
5 dl (or 2 cups) coarse bulgur*** (in Finnish: karkea bulgur), washed and drained
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste in the end if needed
7.5 dl (or 3 cups) almost boiling water (I heated up to 80C) or vegetable broth, plus more if needed
*You can find this pepper in Turkish or Middle Eastern markets. If you can’t find this pepper specifically, you can also just use 2 green bell peppers; but dice them really finely.
**Capsicum paste is generally found in Turkish or Middle Eastern markets. If you can’t find this, you can replace it with tomato paste, but use 1 tbsp of it instead.
***This is a type of bulgur that is bigger in size than the fine ones in normal markets. You should look for “karkea bulgur” or you should, again, go to a Turkish or Middle Eastern market in the city.
1. In a large, shallow pan, put olive oil on medium heat for 20 seconds. Add onions and peppers and sauté by frequently stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until peppers are tender and onions are translucent.
2. Add minced garlic and continue to sauté for 1 more minute.
3. Add canned tomato and capsicum paste and continue to sauté for a couple of minutes, until tomato and paste are nicely mixed with the rest.
4. Add bulgur and salt and stir for one minute constantly.
5. Add 7.5 dl (or 3 cups) hot water, spread bulgur mixture evenly inside the pan and put the lid of the pan, leave ajar. Also, turn the heat down to medium.
6. After 10 minutes, start checking frequently to see if all the water is absorbed or not. Once the water is absorbed, check if bulgur is fully cooked or if it’s still a bit too hard to bite. If it is not yet tender and cooked well, add more water and continue cooking the same way, with the lid on. I added 2.5 dl (1 cup) more water, but you might need more or less than that depending on the bulgur you are using, that’s why I recommend adding extra water little by little.
7. When the extra water is absorbed too, check it again to see if it’s fully cooked. When it’s finally cooked well, adjust the taste with more salt if needed. The pilaf is cooked well when it is tender but still grainy and not too soft and muddy. Enjoy!