The first time I made this salad my daughter ate the whole lot up and I nearly fell to my knees in awe of her, but before you brandish accusations of extreme snugness, she has rejected every subsequent offer. While I reckon I have truly perfected the recipe: working in clever details, lightly toasting the dry bulgur wheat in butter before cooking, adding nutty pumpkin and mustard seeds at the end; my daughter refuses to eat a crumb of it. To add confusion to my frustration, however, she still regularly enjoys carrot, feta, and bulgur wheat on other occasions. This, I think, is exactly the sort of behaviour that defines how hard it is to cook for a toddler. The same ingredient that inspired pure glee one Friday lunchtime, you can watch being slowly exited from the mouth with the word ‘puh’ the next. It seems toddlers are to food, as teens are to friends.
I, on the other hand, am a grown up, and I bloody love this salad. Like many good recipes, the idea stemmed from an almost-empty fridge. There’s no doubt carrots are cheap and often boringly familiar, but when roasted and combined with salty feta, fresh parsley and a toasty, nutty vinaigrette dressing, the humble carrot makes a perfect light lunch for a scorching hot day.
Roasted carrot, feta and bulgur wheat salad with sesame dressing
4 large carrots, cut into chunky sticks
Veg oil for roasting
1 rounded tsp soft brown sugar
Salt and pepper
100g bulgur wheat
Large knob of butter
1/2 pint veg stock, I use 1 tsp Swiss Vegetable Bouillon
Generous handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
For the dressing
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
2 tbsp light, flavourless oil such as sunflower
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (subs white wine vinegar and 1/2 tsp of sugar)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds, toasted in a dry pan over a low heat until they begin to pop
1/2 tsp mustard powder
Generous pinch course sea salt
Preheat oven to 180c
Prepare the carrot and place in an ovenproof dish, coat in a little oil and brown sugar, season well and roast in a hot oven for about 45 minutes until sweet and caramelised.
While the carrots are roasting, prepare the bulgur wheat. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over a low heat and add the dry wheat grains. Toast in the butter, stirring constantly to avoid burning, for 3 minutes or so. Add the veg stock, stir well, cover and leave over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Do not be tempted to disturb or stir the wheat during cooking, if allowed to steam in this way, the butter that coats each grain will prevent the cooked wheat from sticking. Taking the lid off the pan will let out necessary moisture.
After 20 minutes, take the wheat off the heat and fork through the grains carefully; allow to air, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Prepare the other salad ingredients and dressing while the wheat and carrots are cooking. Wash the parsley carefully and chop finely. Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tightly fitting lid and shake thoroughly to combine.
Assemble the salad while the carrots and wheat are still warm, this will help the grains take up the flavours from the dressing. Leave a few ingredients to one side while you mix the rest together in a mixing bowl along with the dressing. Transfer the mixed salad to a serving bowl and artfully arrange a few shards of carrot, creamy white feta pieces and a sprinkling of nutty sunflower seeds on top.
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About Chloe King
I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.
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