Several years ago I came across a gorgeous little concept store/café just behind the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It’s one of those places that seems so effortlessly chic where the food is personal, fresh and made with love of the contemplative kind. Its walls are lined with blonde wooden shelves each carrying a collection of locally sourced natural products including classic pastel-striped towels from the hammam, olive oil soaps, little boxes of spices, essential oils and stone platters and bowls. Simple artworks adorn the walls and there’s always a small rail of beautiful garments and woven shawls. The coffee is wonderful and the atmosphere chilled, the perfect antidote to a morning spent – generally overwhelmed and very lost – in the bazaar. It’s called Fez Café and I absolutely loved it. Sadly, it is no more but this beautifully textured piquant salad is a lasting memory of the many, many lunches I quietly enjoyed with them leafing through their collection of old Turkish recipe books and taking notes.
300g course bulgur wheat (this version was made using a bulgur wheat/vermicelli mix)
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp Turkish biber salçası, the hot version (you can also buy this in Mediterranean supermarkets)
2 lemons, zested and juiced
5 tbsp pomegranate molasses
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
3 plum tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped
30g flat leaf parsley or dill, finely chopped
1 tsp pul biber (Aleppo pepper)
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
Pomegranate arils, to garnish
Dried dill tops, to serve
Sumac, to serve
How I make it
Place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl, cover with freshly boiled water, add a tablespoon of sea salt and leave to soak for around 20 minutes until it’s soft but still retains some bite. Drain and return the grains to the bowl.
Add the tomato purée, the biber salçası, lemon zest and juice, pomegranate molasses, olive oil and the white onion. Thoroughly mix together using your hands. Cover and set aside for a hour or so to allow all the flavours mingle.
When you’re ready to serve, stir in the spring onions, chopped tomatoes, the herbs and the pul biber.
Season to your taste and tumble everything onto a large platter. Dress with the pomegranate arils, dill tops, a sprinkling of sumac and more herbs if you fancy it.
Serve as part of a mezze spread – it’s particularly lovely with – Turkish yoghurt with mint, pul biber and lemon – or alongside your summer BBQ.
I think that the shop side of the café still trades under the name Abdulla in the bazaar but lockdown came before I had a chance to find out.