bulgur wheat and tomatoes

bulgur wheat and tomatoes_shorkk

Bulgur wheat and tomatoes is a simple, one pot dish popular in Lebanon – comfort food made from a handful of ingredients. Frying the onion in some Zejd extra virgin olive oil until really golden makes a lot of difference when there’s such a short list of ingredients. Given that tomatoes can be hit or miss in terms of flavour, the recipe works well with tinned tomatoes. If you prefer to use fresh ones, adding a tablespoon of tomato puree will intensify the flavour. 

Cracked wheat was once more common in Lebanon than rice. Being parboiled, it cooks in less time, and its interesting nutty flavour has great texture. While it’s easy to find in supermarkets, if you have a Middle Eastern shop nearby, you’ll probably find the darker coloured grain which is more common in Lebanon. Choose a medium or coarse grain, not the fine which is used in tabbouleh. Keep an eye that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan, but if it does, the crispy burnt bits all add to the texture.

We’ve borrowed Nada Salah’s recipe from “New Flavours of the Lebanese Table”, sadly out of print, but well worth hunting down. If there are any leftovers, crumble a bit of feta and fold in some chopped spring onion to make a delicious and portable salad for the next day. 

serves 3 


2 tbsp Zejd extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
250g tomatoes chopped, or a tin of chopped tomatoes 
1 tbsp tomato purée
200g coarse bulgur wheat 
300ml water 
1 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground 


  1. Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown. 
  2. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, without much flavour, add the tomato purée and stir for a minute, then add the tomatoes, stir, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. If you’re using tinned tomatoes, add the tin, juice and all, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. 
  3. Uncover, add the bulgur wheat and the water, salt and cinnamon. If you’re using tinned tomatoes, add only 150ml of water. 
  4. Bring to the boil, cover and turn the heat to its lowest setting for 8-10 minutes. Lift the lid and check the grains have absorbed all the water.

Serve warm with thick greek style yoghurt on the side.  

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