Lentil, Bulgur & Tamarind Pilaf


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Jewelled Kitchen

The Jewelled Kitchen

By Bethany Kehdy

Published 2013

  • About

This is my interpretation of a savoury dish whose native name translates as “burnt his fingers”. Traditionally, the dish is prepared with reshteh, or noodles similar to tagliatelle. I have also encountered the dish without the reshteh, and topped with fried Arabic breadcrumbs instead.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes, plus soaking
Cooking Time: 35 minutes


  • tbsp tamarind paste or juice of 1 lemon
  • 250 g/9 oz/ cups brown lentils
  • 120 g/ oz/½ cup coarse or extra coarse bulgur wheat (grade 3 or 4)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 3 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic bulb, cloves separated and finely chopped
  • 3 handfuls of coriander/cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper flakes or crushed chilli flakes
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Courgette & Sumac Fritters, to serve
  • White Cabbage Salad, to serve – you may like to omit the garlic from this recipe as the pilaf also contains garlic


  1. Put the tamarind paste, if using, in a small mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons hot water and leave to soak for about 10 minutes. With a fork or your hands, mash the tamarind until it dissolves and you are left with a light brown, thick, sauce-like paste. Strain through a fine sieve, discarding the seeds and tough fibres.
  2. Put the lentils in a heavy-based saucepan and cover with 1 l/35 fl oz/4⅓ cups water. Cover and bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are slightly tender. Add the bulgur wheat, season to taste with salt and cook for a further 10–15 minutes until the bulgur is soft and the lentils are tender but still intact.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the sunflower oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat, add the red onions and fry for 4–5 minutes or until lightly coloured. Add the garlic and coriander/cilantro and stir well, cooking for 1–2 minutes until the mixture is aromatic and the coriander/cilantro wilts.
  4. Add the lentils and bulgur wheat to the pan, pour in the olive oil and tamarind paste or lemon juice, then add the cumin and Aleppo pepper flakes and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Courgette & Sumac Fritters and White Cabbage Salad.