Thursday 19 May 2011

Red Bean Bulghur Pilaf

Bulghur Wheat is probably best known as the main ingredient of tabbouleh, the popular summer salad.  In this recipe it's served hot and cooked with onion, garlic, kidney beans and tomatoes and mildly spiced with chilli.

As it's name suggests, bulghur wheat comes from whole wheat grain that has been hulled, par-boiled and roasted.  It's a useful substitute for mince in a bolognese sauce or vegetable casserole as it readily absorbs flavours as well as cooking liquid (and even has the appearance and texture of mince!).

In this quick and easy recipe, the bulghur wheat soaks up all the juicy goodness from the tomatoes and vegetable stock to produce a moist and wholesome supper dish. 

Ingredients                     Serves 4

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
175g bulghur wheat
1 x 400g red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp sun dried tomato paste
1 Kallo organic stock cube dissolved in 600ml hot water
1/4 tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or casserole and fry the onion over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until soft but not brown.  Add the garlic and red pepper and stir well. Cook for about five minutes until the peppers are beginning to soften.

Add the bulghur wheat and give it a good stir round, then add the chilli powder, chopped tomatoes, sundried tomato paste and hot vegetable stock. 

Cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the bulghur wheat tastes cooked.

Stir in the drained kidney beans and season with salt and pepper.

Leave for a few minutes for the beans to heat through, then serve with salad or a green vegetable.

Saturday 7 May 2011


This is a classic French Provencal dish that never fails to please and impress! Whenever I've made one of these for a workshop or party,  someone has always asked me for the recipe!

As it's name suggests, a pissaladière is similar to an Italian pizza but with no cheese in sight!  It's traditionally filled with onions, tomatoes and herbs with a lattice of anchovy fillets and black olives on top. The filling can be cooked on a bread base or on a pre-cooked shortcrust pastry base, like I've done here, which has a much lighter texture.  What's good about this recipe is that it tastes fabulous cold so it's ideal for a party as you can make it well in advance and keep it in the fridge till needed.

The pastry is entirely dairy free and made with Trex vegetable fat and Pure margarine. I usually use white flour as it makes the tart lighter though I do use wholemeal flour to dust my work surface before rolling it out.  I usually make the pissaladiere in a round flan tin but it looks just as good in a large square or oblong tin.

Ingredients        Serves 6 - 8

180g plain flour
60g Trex vegetable fat
30g Pure sunflower margarine
pinch of salt
1 level tsp cinnamon
About 3 tbsp cold water

5 large onions (about 900g)
3 cloves garlic
5 tbsp olive oil
400g tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp sundried tomato paste
3 or 4 fresh sprigs of thyme and oregano
About 15 black olives
Small jar/tin of anchovy fillets in olive oil
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 5. 

Place a baking sheet on the middle shelf.

To make the pastry, sift the flour and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt.  Place the vegetable fat and margarine in the bowl and chop into small pieces with a knife. Using your fingers, rub the fat into the flour until it becomes crumbly and resembles breadcrumbs.  

Add the water a little at a time and, using the knife again, mix together to form a soft dough.   (Alternatively, make your pastry in a food processor if you like)

Bring the pastry dough together with your hands and place on a clean, lightly floured work surface.   Roll out the pastry to about 1/4" thick and transfer to a greased 23 - 25 cm (9 -10") flan tin.  (The best way to do this is to roll the pastry loosely round a rolling pin and then lift it onto the prepared tin)

Ease the pastry into position and make sure no air is trapped underneath.  Gently strengthen the sides with any excess pastry to avoid it shrinking down when baked.  Either cover and leave in the fridge until needed or use straightaway.

Prick the base of the flan all over with a fork, place a piece of foil or greaseproof paper on top and fill with baking beans, dried soya beans or rice to stop the pastry base from puffing up whilst baking.

Place in the oven on the pre-heated baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then remove the beans ands foil and place the flan base back uncovered in the oven for 5 more minutes or till completely cooked through but not brown.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Peel and thinly slice the onions. (Done in moments in a food processor and without shedding a tear!)

Peel and finely chop the garlic.  Place the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan (I use a 28cm Le Creuset casserole with a lid) and cook the onions and garlic over a low heat for about 40 minutes until they become soft, stirring occasionally. Don't rush this process. The onions need gentle cooking so they stew slowly rather than fry in the olive oil.

Meanwhile, place the tinned tomatoes in a small saucepan with the sundried tomato puree, thyme and oregano. 

Cook the mixture over a medium to high heat stirring frequently until thick and well reduced. 

Stir the tomato mixture into the cooked onions and season with freshly ground pepper and a little salt.  (anchovies are already salty so don't overdo the seasoning.)

Fill the pre-baked pastry base with the cooked tomato and onion mixture.  Drain the anchovy fillets (reserving the oil for another day e.g. for making a homemade tomato sauce)  Using scissors, cut the thickest anchovies in half lengthways and place in a lattice pattern over the filing. Dot the middle of the squares with the olives and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. 

Bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes at 200C/Gas Mark 5.

Serve the pissaladière straightaway, if you wish, though I think it tastes better at room temperature.  Delicious with salad, as a main course or starter.