For this meal, we’re reclaiming some of our Arabic tentacles at the origins of one of Spain’s iconic dishes, the Paella. Basically, the Paella is a dish made of rice, saffron, vegetables and meat. There are many stories about the origin of the word “Paella” but my favorite is that it comes from the Arabic word “Baqiya”, meaning leftovers, describing a dish that binds any possible leftovers in a rice-based combo.
Lovely. Speaking of lovely, here’s your loop material for this session. Use it wisely.
Concha Buika – En Mi Piel
Estrella Morente – Volver
Emeli Sandé – Heaven
Beyouncé + Andre 3000 – Back to Black
Back to business: What’s interesting about the Paella is that there is no definitive recipe for it. There are infinite ways of how to cook it. It’s leftovers and rice after all, and we’re giving it a twist. Instead of rice, we’re going to use Brown Coarse Bulgur. You can use the White Coarse Bulgur, but don’t buy the fine Bulgur… that’s for Tabbouleh.
Bulgur is interesting. Its texture is independent, and it can be served alone, but when added to different ingredients, it has its way of being a super-ingredient. I personally prefer Bulgur to Rice, almost always, but we’re not going to judge. Rice can be good to some people sometimes.
Spanish director, Pablo Berger, said, “A movie's like a paella, you put all of your obsessions in there.” We are going to follow. Get your Bulgur and put all your obsessions in there. The following recipe is an example of that. You will love it. You will make Bulgur Paellas at least three times a month, and you will pray to God for my constant good fortune.
If you already have Bulgur in your pantry and leftovers in your fridge, this recipe will cost you nothing. A bag of Bulgur (containing 6-7 cups) should cost you around two dollars. As we already established, vegetables are cheap, and this Bulgur Paella is tastier in its vegetarian form.
If your fridge is empty, and your pantry is just a hollow cabinet, head to the grocer and get a can of chickpeas, five cucumbers, two tomatoes, one onion, garlic, three lemons, 7 cups of yoghurt, tahini, olives, four small eggplants and parsley. This should cost you around ten dollars. Feel free to change this recipe, actually, you have to. I will dissect the process into three main stages. The first and the last can more or less stay fixed. The middle part is yours to play around with.
Step one: Prepare the Bulgur.
Making Bulgur is simple. Get a pot, sprinkle some oil; for each cup of Bulgur, add a cup of water. For this meal, add two cups of Bulgur in the pot and mix with the olive oil. Add two cups of water and some salt and let it cook (covered) on low heat for around twelve minutes. When time is up turn off the heat, add some olive oil to your Bulgur and mix. Put the lid back on and keep it for around five to ten minutes. Taste the Bulgur five minutes through, if it’s well done, great. If not, just monitor it every now and then, keeping it covered to cook itself in its own heat. Once you like what you’ve done, squeeze a lemon or two over your mix, and keep it in the fridge to cool.
Step two: Prepare your veggies.
Dice your onion and eggplants, and toss them in a bowl with some oil. Cook until soft. On the side, cut your cucumbers and tomatoes as small as possible. Do the same to your parsley. If the parsley is too complicated for you, just pick out the leaves and throw the stems. If you’ve opted for canned chickpeas, drain and rinse with water, set aside in a bowl and add your cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and parsley. The olives should be de-seeded, obviously, unless you want to choke to death. If the answer to that is unclear, no, you don’t want to choke to death.
Once the eggplants and onions are done, keep them out to cool so they don’t cook the cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley in the mix. You don’t want that to happen. When they’re ready, add them to the bowl. Mix the ingredients violently. Add some olive oil, salt and pepper, and mix again.
Get your bowl of Bulgur out of the fridge and add your veggies in. Mix violently. Don’t make a mess just make sure the mix gets somehow homogenous. You want every bite to have everything you’ve sliced and diced, so be rigorous, it will pay off.
Step three: Prepare your sauce.
You can start eating at step two, it’s already delicious, but this sauce is to die for. Scoop two tablespoons of Tahini and put them in a bowl. Add water and mix. The amount of water somehow depends on your Tahini, and the consistency you want to get to. Keep adding water until the mix is creamy, but not to dilute. Once it’s ready, add salt and lemon juice (one lemon would do) and then add the yoghurt. Add a lot of minced garlic as you’re mixing. Taste it. If you like it, add it over your Bulgur and vegetables. If not, add salt, yoghurt or more Tahini to make it perfect then add it over your Bulgur and vegetables. Mix violently. Eat.