Nigella Lawson's Spiced Bulgur Wheat with Roast Vegetables
This is one of my most repeated suppers, particularly when I have vegetarian or vegan friends over, but not only then; even meat-eaters do not need to eat meat every day. And while it’s certainly enough for four, I don’t decrease quantities for two; this is most definitely something you want in a tub in the fridge to eat later in the week, whether reheated or as a salad. But it also serves as a glowingly beautiful and glamorously practical side dish – starch and vegetables in one – alongside a roast chicken or slow-cooked lamb, say. And I especially like it, too, with some quickly cooked (and tonally congruent) red mullet fillets…
But back to the recipe in its full glory. If it makes your life easier, you can prepare the vegetables and sit them in their tin ready for you a good couple of hours in advance. I don’t cover them, but you could if you don’t want the scent of raw leeks to pervade the air. I find it very much more relaxing to give the bulgur wheat its 15 minutes of cooking time quite a bit in advance because it will stand happily for up to 2 hours; it doesn’t need to be piping hot.
I feel a particular wistful fondness for this dish as it was what I cooked the last time I had friends for supper in the Old Life, just before lockdown. I served the roast butternut and the pink sauce (p.225 of Cook, Eat, Repeat) alongside; the Blood Orange and Passionfruit Pavlova (p.243 of Cook, Eat, Repeat) after. It was a beautiful evening.
|For the bulgur wheat:|
|A small bunch (approx. 25g)||coriander|
|2||fat cloves of garlic|
|1 tsp||fennel seeds|
|1 tsp||cumin seeds|
|1 tsp||coriander seeds|
|⅛ tsp||dried chilli flakes|
|1 x 15ml tbsp||olive oil|
|1½ tsp||sea salt flakes (or ¾ tsp fine sea salt)|
|For the roast vegetables:|
|400g||leeks (trimmed weight – or approx. 600g if you’re buying them untrimmed)|
|400g (2–3)||red peppers|
|1 tsp||cumin seeds|
|1 tsp||fennel seeds|
|1 tsp||sea salt flakes (or ½ tsp fine sea salt)|
|3 x 15ml tbsp||olive oil|
1. You don’t have to start on the bulgur wheat straightaway, but as it stands so comfortably once cooked, I tend to do it this way round. Finely chop some of the tender stalks of coriander, just enough to give you about a tablespoon; peel the garlic; measure out the seeds and chilli flakes; and have water in a jug by the hob in readiness. If you are in a hurry to eat you could get on with preparing the vegetables now too.
2. Get out a not-too-large heavy-based casserole or pan that comes with a tightly fitting lid – I use an enamelled cast-iron one of 20cm diameter – and very gently warm the oil over low heat. Finely grate in the zest of the orange, and stir it into the oil. Mince or grate in the garlic, add your spoonful of finely chopped coriander stalks and stir these into the now golden oil for about 30 seconds. Turn the heat up a little, just to medium-low, and add the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds, followed by the chilli flakes, and give everything a good stir.
3. Turn the heat to high, and quickly add the bulgur wheat and lentils, and stir again, and well, to make sure everything is mixed together. Now add the water and salt and bring to the boil.
4. Once it’s started bubbling, clamp on the lid and turn the heat back down to low, then leave to cook gently for 15 minutes – you can start chopping your vegetables – by which time all the water should be absorbed.
5. Heat the oven to 220ºC/200ºC Fan. Wash the leeks to remove any mud if needed, and cut them into approx. 3cm logs, and drop into a sturdy and fairly shallow roasting tin in which, ideally, all the vegetables will sit snugly; I use one that’s 29 x 25 x 5cm. Cut the red peppers (deseeding, and discarding any pith in the process) into large bite-sized pieces and add them to the roasting tin along with the whole cherry tomatoes.
6. When time’s up on the bulgur wheat, turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean tea towel, clamp the lid back on and leave for 40 minutes, though it will stand happily for a lot longer than this. I routinely leave this for 2 hours.
7. Sprinkle the seeds and salt over the waiting vegetables, then add the oil and schmoosh to mix. Pour 2 tablespoons of cold water and 2 tablespoons of juice from your zested orange into the tin and roast in the hot oven for 30 minutes, by which time the vegetables should be cooked and soft, and the leeks beginning to scorch in parts. While the vegetables are in the oven, halve the radishes from top to bottom.
8. When the leeks, peppers and tomatoes have had their 30 minutes, take the tin out of the oven, add the radishes, and mix. Because the vegetables – ideally – fit so snugly in their tin, they make a wonderful strongly flavoured juice as they cook. However, if you’ve had to use a bigger tin, you may find that they’re going a little dry, and might be sticking to the tin in places; if so add another tablespoon each of orange juice and water or more as needed. Put back in the oven to roast for another 10 minutes. Take the tin out of the oven and let stand while you put the finishing touches on the bulgur wheat.
9. Chop the coriander leaves. Remove the lid and tea towel from the bulgur wheat and use a couple of forks to mix everything together in the pan and, importantly, to separate and fluff up the grains.
10. Tip into a serving bowl or dish, add most of your chopped coriander and fork it in. Add a third of the roasted vegetables and mix in well but lightly with your two forks. Taste for seasoning – I often want to add more salt at this stage. Top with the remaining roasted vegetables, and sprinkle with the rest of the coriander.
Store - Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 5 days. Reheat in microwave or transfer to ovenproof dish, cover with foil and heat in a 180°C/160°C Fan oven until piping hot. Or eat cold.