Bulgur, Mint and Cucumber Salad

Kisir

This salad is associated with southeastern Anatolia, but it has spread all round the country, with regional variations. In my mother’s restaurant in Bodrum I learned to include pickles and pickle juice to add saltiness and contrast to the sweetness of the molasses. The trick here is to use just the right amount of boiling water—too little and the grain will be crunchy, too much and it will be mush. The Turkish name is strange—the word kısır literally means ‘infertile’, which is hardly the case here.

Ingredients

  • 200 g (7 oz) fine bulgur
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (to make your own, see)
  • 1 teaspoon capsicum (pepper) paste (see)
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 1 long green chilli
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 pickled cucumbers or gherkins
  • 10 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley stalks, picked
  • 10 mint leaves, chopped
  • 5 spring onions (scallion(s))
  • 2 tablespoons gherkin juice
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (to make your own, see)

Method

Bring 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of water to the boil water over high heat. Place the bulgur in a large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Leave to rest for 15 minutes. Stir the olive oil, tomato paste and capsicum paste into the bulgur.

Score a shallow cross in the base of each tomato, then transfer to a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 30 seconds, then plunge into cold water and peel the skin away from the cross. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Finely chop.

Slice the chilli and remove the stalk and the seeds. Finely chop. Finely chop the cucumbers, parsley leaves, mint leaves and spring onions. Add all the chopped ingredients to the bulgur and mix well. Finally, add the gherkin juice, pepper, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. Stir and serve the kısır in the bowl for people to help themselves.