There really is no reason for a salad to be boring. I hate it when restaurants and cafes add a little sad-looking “side salad” to a plate consisting of undressed lettuce, tomato and cucumber that most people will leave untouched. It’s a complete waste of food.
This harissa-spiced bulgur salad certainly doesn’t fall into the boring category and is one I’ve made many, many times over the years. It has a bit of sentimental value for me, being a dish I’ve made to share with close friends outdoors on memorable sunny days. Yes, like last week’s recipe (Pea, Broccoli & Feta Tart) this is another for the picnic file, but I’ve made it just as often for a quick lunch at home!
Bulgur wheat: an ode to
This salad uses one of my favourite grains, bulgur wheat. If you’re not too familiar with it, bulgur wheat is a grain made from pre-cooked cracked wheat – often durum. It’s used in tabbouleh and throughout Middle Eastern cooking and is cheap to buy, quick to cook, and easily soaks up flavour. In this recipe I used a medium-grind bulgur, but you can get find coarser and finer grinds too.
Aside from salads, it has a whole load of other uses too. You can use it to substitute rice or couscous, bulk up stews with it, or try out a recipe like Nigella Lawson’s spiced bulgur wheat with roast vegetables, which I highly recommend. I’ve used it in a vegetarian chilli, which worked great, in a ragu, which was less great (still tasty, but the nuttiness of the bulgur wasn’t quite right for it), and to bulk out fritters.
It’s very much deserving of a permanent spot in your pantry and I’m sure to have more bulgur-based recipes here on Glasgow Sprout in the future!
The flavour balance
I’ve made many different iterations of this salad over the years and this version, I think, has a great balance of flavours. You’ve got some spice from the harissa, saltiness from the feta, a bit of sweetness from the butternut squash, and acidity from the pickled red onion. It all works together and the only thing I would say you could omit is the feta to make this vegan.
Don’t even think about not adding the picked red onion, though. The quantity I’ve recommended you make leaves you with plenty leftover to add to other meals – keeping a stock of these onions in the fridge is an idea you can thank me for later.
Harissa-spiced bulgur salad with squash and feta
Pickled red onion
- 1 medium red onion thinly sliced
- 100 ml apple cider vinegar
- 100 ml water
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 100 g bulgur wheat
- 200 ml vegetable stock
- 2 tsp harissa paste
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 250 g butternut squash cubed
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp harissa paste
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 50 g feta crumbled
- 50 grams spinach
- 20 g mixed seeds optional
- 10 g coriander optional
- First prepare the pickled red onion – for best results do this at least a couple of hours in advance or the day before. Add the sliced onions, coriander and mustard seeds to a container. Add the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to a pan on medium heat. Once the sugar and salt has dissolved remove from the heat and pour over the onions. Once cooled, seal and keep in the fridge.
- Now for the squash. First, pre-heat your oven to 220°C (200°C fan). In a medium-sized bowl mix together the olive oil, harissa paste and salt. Toss the cubed butternut squash in it until fully coated and evenly space out on a foil-lined baking tray. Cook for 20-25 mins until a knife easily pierces through.
- Add the bulgur wheat, stock and harissa paste to a pot on medium heat. Give everything a stir and cover, cooking until all the liquid has absorbed and you can fluff up with a fork. Add the lemon juice, mix and taste for seasoning – depending on your stock you may need to add salt. Add the bulgur to a large bowl and let cool for about five minutes.
- To the bowl with bulgur add the squash, feta, spinach, and about a quarter of the onions (the rest can be used for other meals and will keep in the fridge for several weeks). Mix everything together and serve, optionally topping with mixed seeds and/or coriander.