Vegan Recipe: Turkish Bulgur Balls In Eggplant & Tomato Sauce

Turkish Bulgar Balls recipe, use vegan option instead
I’m always looking for recipes with eggplants (aubergines) (like this one). I was delighted to come across this recipe with rib-sticking bulgur balls in a meaty eggplant and tomato sauce. It’s vegan, but the chef, Ozlem  Warren, gives the option to include ground beef in the bulgar balls if you wish.

Warren is a Turkish food writer, culinary teacher and food tour guide. I picked up this mouth-watering recipe from her charming blog, Ozlem’s Turkish Table. She writes that it’s a festive specialty from Antakya and that it will be featured in her intriguing new cookbook, Ozlem’s Turkish Table.

The dish is a labor of love that requires time and some kneading. But all of the stages are easy, and for the dedicated cook, it’s an opportunity to recreate a truly authentic Mediterranean dish. You’ll need to get your hands on Turkish red pepper paste, available in Middle Eastern shops, or make your own.

Bulgar Balls in Eggplant/Tomato Sauce
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients For Eggplant/Tomato Sauce:

2 medium eggplants
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cans of 400g/14oz good quality plum tomatoes
10ml/2 teaspoons red pepper paste (recipe here)
15ml/1 tablespoon tomato paste
15ml/1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
45ml/3 tablespoons olive oil
900ml/1½ pints water
10ml/2 teaspoons dried mint
5ml/1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes or chili flakes
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients for Bulgur Balls:

110g/4oz fine bulgur. If only coarse bulgur is available, pulse it a few times in a food processor to make it fine.
90ml/3fl oz warm water to wet the bulgur
120ml/4fl oz warm water to knead the bulgur
40g/1½oz coarse semolina
30ml/2 tablespoons warm water for semolina

Optional: 60g/2oz extra lean (double grind) minced/ground beef
15ml/1 tablespoon red pepper paste
5ml/1 teaspoon ground cumin
5ml/1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes or chili flakes
Salt to taste

First make the bulgur balls. Place the fine bulgur in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the red pepper paste, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes and mix them all well. Then pour the 90ml/3fl oz warm water all over it.

Using your hands, give the mixture a good mix and let it absorb the water for 10 minutes. In the meantime, place the semolina in a separate bowl and stir in the 30ml/2 tablespoons warm water.

Knead and turn the semolina mixture into a soft dough. Semolina is important here as it helps to bind the bulgur dough.

Have the 120ml/4fl oz warm water bowl next to you and start kneading the bulgur mixture for about 5 minutes. Wet your hands continuously while kneading.

Stir in the semolina dough and knead together for another 5 minutes. (Add the optional meat.) Knead for 10 minutes, until you get a smooth dough.

Have a bowl of cold water aside to shape the small round bulgur balls. Wet your hands and take a large cherry size bulgur dough into your palm and shape it like a small ball. Place the bulgur balls side-by-side on a tray and continue until you finish all the bulgur dough.

Quarter the eggplants then slice each piece diagonally in 3cm/about 1in chunks. Lay them on a tray and season with salt. Leave for about 15 minutes. Drain the excess moisture by squeezing them with a paper towel.

Place the plum tomatoes into a food processor and process until you achieve a coarse purée.

In a deep, heavy pan, pour in the olive oil and stir in the eggplants. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until they have a nice golden colour.

Place the sautéed eggplants on a wide plate over a paper towel to get rid of the excess oil.

Stir the garlic and the onions into the pan and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the puréed tomato, tomato paste, red pepper paste and the water to the pan. Stir in the eggplants, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Combine gently. Cover and cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes.

Carefully drop the bulgur balls into the pan and combine well. Cover and cook on a low heat for another 25 minutes.

Stir in the pomegranate molasses, dried mint and red pepper flakes. Turn the heat off and serve warm with Turkish pide bread or any good crusty bread.

Recipe and photo by permission of Ozlem Warren via Ozlem’s Turkish Table.

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