Turkish Bulgur Pilaf with Lamb and Silverbeet
The perfect dishes are those that can be shared. This one-pot wonder is a real winner. Nutty bulgur wheat replaces rice and cooked alongside juicy, melty lamb. The light and leafy silverbeet (chard) adds its own magic. Pop this pilaf in the centre of the table and see it disappear before your eyes!
I first ate this Lamb and Bulgur Pilaf in Turkey a few years ago in the beautiful tiny village of Soğanlı in Cappadocia.
It was winter and there were no tourists around, so when we arrived in the deserted village square in the centre of a narrow valley we were immediately a target! Literally 20 people came running down the mountain to greet us shouting "Poupee!! Poupee!! We subsequently found out, that this town was famous for hand made dolls or 'Poupee' in French. After buying two dolls (being forced to buy) from one very smiley man, he insisted we come to his house and meet his family. Upon arrival we were welcomed into the house and quickly realised he might be the only smiley one in the family. We sat for a good 20 minutes smiling politely in complete silence.
My family is your family.
Suddenly the smiler, our new friend, pulled out a giant pan from under my seat and began spooning the contents into a bowl. He handed us each a bowl and gestured for us to eat - while everyone else looked on, unimpressed. It was utterly delicious! The dish was bulgur, a cracked raw wheat and it appeared to have been cooked in tomato sauce and featured huge chunks of lamb or goat, (there was no Google Translate back then). I'd eaten a similar dish in Istanbul so knew the word 'Bulgur' which impressed our friend no end.
It was a surprisingly flavourful dish and deceptively filling. I didn't need to fake how impressed I was. In fact I was a little over enthusiastic and he insisted on another bowl. The family appeared a little put out by two strangers coming into their home and eating their evening meal, so my enthusiasm for the second bowl was much more muted, to avoid a third bowl situation.
Recreating a bulgur pilaf
Since that trip, I've made this pilaf many many times and it's always a real winner. Cooking bulgur wheat uses the same liquid to starch ratio as rice. 1 portion bulgur : 2 portion water (or stock) - use this ratio and you can't go wrong. This dish has everything; heartiness, healthiness and tastiness! It's a welcome alternative to rice and extremely tasty. I like to serve mine with a simple yoghurt sauce - normally blended with herbs, but often just a simple Turkish yoghurt & garlic sauce
Serving suggestions and other Turkish Recipes
The version I ate was simple - my versions often switch up the silverbeet for green cabbage, French beans or spinach. I've created this dish with lamb, beef, pork and chicken and on a few occasions, meat free - all were delicious. This bulgur recipe is inspired by the dish I ate in Turkey, but with my own take on ingredients, but I think if I cooked this for that family in Soğanlı, even they might crack a smile.
If you liked this Turkish delight, then I know you'll also love these. Give another of my authentic Turkish recipes a try:
Turkish Bulgur Pilaf with Lamb and Silverbeet
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- 2 lb lamb shoulder cut into large chunks
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 onion (large) thinly sliced
- 1 bunch silverbeet stems and leaves separated. Leaves chopped, stems thinly diced
- 2 cups coarse bulgur wheat
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup unsalted pistachios shelled
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy casserole pan and fry the lamb pieces for 5 minutes until nicely browned. Add 1 teaspoon of the cumin and the tomato puree then pour in 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, covered, for 1 hour.
- Remove the meat from the liquid and set aside. Keep the cooking liquid.
- Wipe the pan clean then heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over a moderate heat – add the onions and silverbeet stalks and fry gently for 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the silverbeet leaves, the remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin and salt & pepper and stir for 1-2 minutes until wilted. Return the lamb to the pan along with the bulgur, half the pistachios and 4 cups of the meat cooking liquid. Let it come to a simmer then reduce the heat to low.Cover and cook gently (without stirring or taking off the lid) for 20 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat – open the pan and sprinkle over the remaining pistachios. Place a tea towel over the pan then return the lid to catch any residual steam - leave for 15 minutes before serving. It'll stay warm for over an hour.
- I served mine with a simple mint yoghurt sauce which suited the dish absolutely perfectly. Simply crush a large handful of fresh mint leaves with ½ teaspoon salt and a pinch of sugar in a pestle and mortar until pulped then stir in 3 heaped tablespoons of yoghurt and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Did you make my Turkish Bulgur Pilaf with Lamb and Silverbeet?
How did you go? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to tag @cookeatworld at Instagram.
I love bulgar wheat and this looks delicious
This WAS delicious. In fact I ate it for lunch today!