Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for bulgur pilaf with fennel, raisins and pine nuts | Vegan food and drink

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Now that I’m a parent, I’m never without raisins. The weekly shop always involves topping up the raisin jar, which is used in many negotiations. Meanwhile, raisins in adult life have long been underappreciated. In the early 90s, they had a moment in couscous salads (and, more locally, in my mum’s raita), but I think it’s about time they were liberated. The southern Italians know they’re wonderful in cooking and use them liberally in pasta con le sarde with fennel and in a fried spinach dish with pine nuts, both of which I have borrowed from to create today’s recipe.

Bulgur pilaf with fennel, raisins and pine nuts

Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
Serves 4 for lunch

300g bulgur wheat
50g pine nuts
40g
raisins
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 large onion
, peeled and thinly sliced
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced, green fronds reserved (500g net)
1 tsp fine sea salt
3 garlic cloves
, peeled and finely sliced
3 tbsp tomato puree
350g baby spinach
125ml dry white wine
1 lemon
, juiced

Put the bulgur in a heatproof bowl, add 450ml just-boiled water, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside.

Put a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the pine nuts and raisins, and fry for three minutes, until the nuts turn a pale golden brown and the raisins start to puff up in the heat. Tip into a bowl and set aside.

Put the oil in the same pan and, once it’s hot, add the fennel seeds and fry for a minute. Stir in the onion, fennel and salt, cook for eight minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a further two minutes. Stir through the tomato puree and cook for another two minutes.

Add the spinach handful by handful, stirring it into the mixture to wilt (this might take a couple of minutes). The spinach will release water, so cook that off completely, which should take about five minutes. Add the wine and let that sizzle away, too.

Fluff up the bulgur wheat with a fork and stir into the fennel mixture with some of the raisins and pine nuts. Stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice, taste and add more lemon if needed. Spoon into a large serving bowl, top with the finely chopped reserved fennel fronds and the remaining pine nuts and raisins, and serve.

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