Swiss Chard Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelised Fennel and Za’atar

A tasty vegetarian lunch recipe idea from the Orient Express book. The Swiss chard and bulgar wheat pilaf is crowned with sweet caramelised fennel and yoghurt.

Orient Express
From the book Orient Express


Most people wouldn’t think of a pilaf as a snack, but it was in my house. I didn’t eat a sandwich until I was about sixteen! A rice pilaf with spinach was always a favourite, but there were variations: purslane, Swiss chard, sometimes even dandelion leaves. Pilafs are always best served with a dollop of chilled yoghurt.

For 8 to share


For the caramelised fennel:
1 medium fennel bulb, finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
10g butter
Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
For the pilaf:
4 spring onions, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
350g coarse bulgur
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
400g Swiss chard leaves, chopped


To make the caramelised fennel:

In a pan, sauté the fennel and onion in the olive oil on a low to medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are soft and caramelised. Remove from the heat and add the butter, lemon zest and juice. Stir until the butter has melted, then put to one side.

To make the pilaf:

In a large heavy pan, sauté the spring onions in the olive oil on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the bulgur until the grains are well coated. Now pour in the stock, cover and cook on a low to medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until the bulgur is soft. A few minutes before the bulgur is cooked, add the Swiss chard and season to taste.

Serve the pilaf topped with the caramelised fennel.

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