In Turkey, there is a type of restaurant called Ocakbaşı. You go to these restaurants when you want to eat grilled meat, cooked on an open barbecue within the restaurant. My favourite meal, whenever we go to places like this, is chicken şiş kebab. Skewered chunks of chicken and vegetables are placed on the grill and once cooked, they’re usually served on a bed of lavaş bread, with a side salad and bulgur wheat.
Along with rice, bulgur wheat is a bit of a staple in Turkey. Walk around Fethiye market and you’ll see a number of stalls selling it by the kilo from huge plastic bowls. Supermarkets stock it, pre-packed, on their shelves alongside rice, lentils and other dried foods. Fine bulgur wheat (köftelik bulgur) resembles couscous and we’ve used it in the past for other Turkish recipes. (Click here to see our kısır recipe which uses fine bulgur.) However, it’s the larger grains which are used to make bulgur pilav.
Last night, I was craving chicken şiş served with bulgur wheat (bulgur pilav) and as we weren’t about to head out into the cold night air, I set about creating my own version. Şiş kebabs are just not the same unless barbecued so I decided to do grilled chicken breast to go with the bulgur. Our fridge was also decidedly sparse of salad so we had a serving of stir-fried Mediterranean vegetables instead.
- First of all, butterfly two chicken breasts, cut them into goujons and score one side.
- Pour around a tablespoon of olive oil onto your grill pan and spread it around. Just enough to prevent the chicken pieces from sticking.
Chicken breast, especially when it’s sliced thinly, can get a bit dry so I always make a spicy (of course!) rub for it.
- In a pestle and mortar, place a clove of garlic, pinch of cumin seed, coriander seed, just a couple of fennel seeds (they’re strong!), black peppercorns, chilli flakes or chilli powder, a pinch of salt, a glug of olive oil and the juice of quarter of a lemon. The lemons in Fethiye are super juicy at the moment so you might need to use half a lemon if you’re not in a citrus-growing area.
- Mash and grind all these ingredients together in your pestle and mortar to make a rough paste.
- This is the messy (but fun) bit. Get your fingers in and rub the mixture into the scores you made on the chicken breast.
I squeezed a little more lemon over the top of the chicken, just for good measure.
FOR THE BULGUR PILAV
As with the Turkish rice recipe, we’re going to be using double the amount of liquid to bulgur wheat.
- Chop a couple of medium-sized tomatoes and saute them in a little olive oil in a large saucepan.
- If you want, you can also add some finely chopped onion. I usually do, but last night I was using onion in the vegetable stir fry and I didn’t want to overdo it.
- After a few minutes, fill a coffee mug with bulgur and add it to the pan.
- Stir for three or four minutes.
- Using the same coffee mug, fill it with water, pour it into the pan and then fill it again (about three quarters full this time) and add that to the pan. Give the mixture a good stir.
I used just less than 2 mugs of water because my tomatoes were quite watery so that made up the extra liquid. If you want (we want!), you can also add some chilli flakes or chilli powder at this point.
Bring to the boil and then turn to a medium heat and cover. I usually leave a small gap.
Bulgur wheat takes around 10 minutes to cook. You need to cook it till the liquid has evaporated and then leave it to stand for about 5 minutes. It does tend to stick to the bottom of the pan while cooking so give it a stir every so often.
Just as you remove it from the heat, add a dessert spoonful of red pepper paste (biber salcası) just for extra colour and richness to the taste. Stir it in and then place the lid back on the pan.
Once you’ve got your bulgur wheat underway, you can prepare your salad or, in our case, stir fry your vegetables and grill your chicken.
When you serve your chicken, there will probably be juices left behind in the grill pan. Lemon, oil, spices. It’s naughty, I know, but drizzle these juices over the top of your chicken. Lovely!
We made this dish for two of us and we have got more than enough left over for lunch today. I’ve mixed the vegetables into the bulgur, there are a few chicken goujons left and we’re going to eat it all with a piece of lavaş bread and some cacık. Roll on lunchtime…