When is tabbouleh not tabbouleh?
Answer: When it is a Turkish dish made with slightly different ingredients and called kısır. Kısır is made from the fine bulgur wheat (cracked wheat). When we’ve written about other Turkish meze recipes, we’ve no doubt said a particular dish is a favourite – Antalya Usulü Piyaz, or spicy Antep Ezmesi, for instance – well, we’ll just have to have more than one favourite because both of us love kısır.
We both have recipes that we take charge of in our house – our kitchen really isn’t big enough for the two of us so it’s a system that works well – and kısır is the one I always love to make. I always make a ridiculous amount because, when we embark on making a feast of meze dishes, it’s usually in the hope of filling an army of friends we’ve cajoled along for a barbecue. And the thing is with kısır, even if there are leftovers, it lasts in the fridge for a few days so we always get through it and we’re still sorry when it’s gone.
We first came across kısır in Turkish recipe books but whenever I made it, I wasn’t really keen on the outcome. We both love bulgur wheat but the kısır was never quite to our taste. Of course, over the years, we’ve asked around, seen more recipes and – as with lots of other Turkish recipes – we’ve discovered it’s made differently in different regions of Turkey.
The version I had been making in the early days was a kısır from East Turkey where a rather large dose of salça (tomato paste) is a part of the mixture – and it wasn’t a particularly good ratio for our tastebuds. (We should say at this point that Mozaik Bahçe restaurant in Fethiye specialise in food from the Hatay region of Turkey and they serve kısır made the East Turkey way – theirs is perfectly lovely; I was clearly doing something wrong!)
A Turkish Kısır Recipe
And so this is the version I make now. It’s a more West Turkey version and we love the flavours in it. One of those flavours is nar ekşisi (a sour pomegranate sauce) but don’t be put off if you haven’t got access to that; a good dose of tangy fresh lemon juice is fine.
If you’re in Turkey, you can get nar ekşisi from the supermarket, local shops or the markets – and if you’re lucky enough to know someone who makes it; wonderful! There’s nothing like homemade foodie goodies! I also alternate between tomato paste (domates salçası) and red pepper paste (biber salçası) depending on mood. Tomato paste is slightly richer and sweeter but has a more dense texture, whereas biber salçası is lighter and more loose in texture.
- 1 (coffee) mugful of fine bulgur wheat
- 2 tomatoes, deseeded and cut into small chunks
- 1 bunch of spring onions, trimmed, cleaned and chopped into small pieces
- 1 cucumber, centre removed and finely chopped
- 1 red capsicum pepper, deseeded and chopped into small pieces
- ½ bunch flat leaf parsley, stems removed and finely chopped
- 2 dessert spoonfuls of tomato or red pepper paste
- 2 tablespoonfuls olive oil
- 1 tablespoonful nar ekşisi
- Juice of half fresh lemon
- 1 teaspoonful dried mint
- 1 pinch of salt
- Pour the bulgur wheat into a bowl (the bulgur will expand so make sure the raw bulgur only fills round half of the bowl).
- Meanwhile, boil some water and dissolve the salça in 2 cupfuls of boiling water.
- Pour over the bulgur wheat and cover tightly with a clean tea towel or cloth for 10 minutes or so until the bulgur wheat goes soft throughout.
- Take a large serving bowl and add the spring onion, chopped red pepper and cucumber.
- Check the bulgur wheat is soft, fork through it to fluff it up and add to the salads in the bowl.
- Now add the parsley.
- Add salt, mint and chilli flakes (chilli flakes are optional).
- Mix it all together.
- Now add the lemon juice, nar ekşisi and olive oil and mix again.
- Just before serving, mix in the tomato chunks.
Kısır goes really well with grilled meats – especially lamb – and it’s a regular on our summer barbecue meze menu. Turkish people (and us) also eat it as a snack on a bed of leafy lettuce…and we’ll admit to always eating a sneaky spoonful whenever we go in the fridge.