I am now at the stage with this book where, barring a few staples that I make all the time and never think to write up (I’m looking at you, Scrambled Eggs and Porridge), I’ve cooked the almost all the things that seem most obvious to me. This is usually the point where, for me and I’m sure for others, the book goes into semi-retirement on the kitchen shelf, retrieved for the odd late-career reprise (“Ah, this one has that amazing…”), but generally about 90% ruled out for no good reason I can think of. I’m a serial offender on that front: Jerusalem for Hummus, Shawarma and Falafel (though I’m making an effort with this book, as it’s wonderful); Delia for roasting anything, and pastry; Hummingbird Bakery for Banana Bread and Carrot Cake; Polpo for a really good grilled courgette salad etc, etc, etc. I’ve even got a few recipe books that I lovingly flick through from time to time, but have never cooked anything from, which is surely some kind of diagnosable condition.
It’s clear that, to take a carefully complied set of 100+ recipes, pick the two easiest ones and then scrap the rest is the work of a fool, and indeed exactly the tendency this blog was started in order to prevent so, in that spirit, I flicked randomly(ish) to page 195 and set about the Bulghur and Aubergine Pilaf.
Now, this is exactly the kind of recipe I’d skip past usually: I already have a perfectly reliable method of making bulghur, it tastes nice, and so I don’t need this one. Alas, this attitude doesn’t lend itself well to exorcising the aforementioned recipe-book-demons, so I went ahead making this, and am glad I did.
First, I warmed some oil (quite a lot: four tablespoons) in a pan along with a bay leaf. I added a thinly sliced onion and fried fairly gently for four or five minutes, just to take the rawness away and soften slightly. I then added a diced aubergine, along with a little more oil (aubergine is an oil sponge extraordinaire. We’ve all come across methods for pre-salting them in order to limit this tendency, but this recipe specified nothing, so I did nothing) and fried for a further four or five minutes. By this stage, everything was nice and tender, and the onions were just browning and beginning to catch. I added 225g of bulghur, stirring to coat, and then 300ml of stock, before turning the heat right down (but not off) and leaving to absorb for ten minutes. To finish, I stirred in a small handful of chopped mint and some toasted pine nuts. We helped ourselves from the pan.
Left to my own devices, there’d be lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, parsley, garlic and god knows what else in here, but what we were left with was a delicate, balanced and tasty foil for the simple roast chicken and tzatziki we ate it with.
Sometimes, it’s worth following a recipe, even if you don’t have to.
Buy your own copy of Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Fast Food’ HERE.