Packed full of herbs, earthy from the bulgur, with a slow sharp slap of creamy zing from the feta, this is a memorable salad that’s just right for this time of year. It’s been, as the Scots say, dreich for days now. Low grey skies and clumps of wet leaves as far as the eye can see. But I love this kind of weather. It smells good outside, fresh, like everything’s getting a good scrub. Getting right to the quick.
Finding myself in need of a lunch for one, and a break from work, which was causing me not a little amount of stress, I decided to bring together a few ingredients for a nourishing meal. To take a proper break to make something that would taste good and make me feel great. The result is an autumnal meal, slightly nutty from the fine brown bulgur, and rich from the duck, but one that’s light and fresh nonetheless. A meal that makes the rest of your day feel full of promise.
I don’t recommend cooking the duck from scratch for this – instead, it’s the perfect way to use up leftovers. After all, part of the delight of duck is the crispy skin and that would be wasted here (it’s better sneaked off in fatty shards while no one’s looking). So, cook yourself some duck – a roast, a Peking duck to have with pancakes – and enjoy it in its hot meaty splendour one night (or buy it ready-cooked), and rest assured that your leftovers tomorrow will be likewise as tasty. Or substitute lamb, if that’s what you’ve got; it would also be beautiful here. For a veggie version, some roasted and cooled aubergine would be great.
This makes a generous bowlful for one (eke it out for two as a side, just omitting the duck, or double the quantities to spread the love). It doesn’t feel heavy, hefty, or ‘too much’ – no, it’s a Goldilocks bowl of goodness to sate and satisfy the soul on a grey day. Enjoy.
duck and bulgur salad with feta
for the salad
1/4 cup of fine brown bulgur wheat
1/2 cup of boiling water (plus 1/4 tsp fine salt)
2 slim spring onions
small chunk of cucumber (8 cms or so if you want to be precise), finely diced
1 tbsp dried barberries (soaked for a few minutes in 2 tbsp boiling water, then drained)
leaves from 4-5 sprigs of mints, sliced or chopped
leaves from 4-5 spring of flat leaf parsley, sliced or chopped
30-40g of duck meat (e.g. roughly the amount from a well-looked-after duck leg)
salt and pepper, to taste
for the dressing
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1/8 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander, and ginger*
small pinch of cinnamon, small pinch of salt
*basically, a generous pinch of each
Pour the salted boiling water over the bulgur in a heatproof bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest and absorb while you assemble the rest of the salad (10-15 minutes, roughly).
Make the dressing in a generous mixing bowl (one that you’d feel comfortable tossing all the ingredients in) – adding all the dressing ingredients and giving it a brisk whisk. Then pour the boiling water over the barberries in a small separate bowl so they get a little more hydrated. This doesn’t need to be for long (a few minutes), just so they’re plumper, and not tight little nubbins.
Finely slice the white (and a little of the light green) parts of the spring onions, pull the meat off the duck bones, dice the cucumber, and gently slice the herbs. To do the later, I tend to lightly bundle them together (like a cigar) and slice in a very rough approximation of a chiffonade. Leave these on your chopping board for now.
After 10-15 minutes, check that your bulgur wheat has absorbed all the water. Give it a fluff through with a fork to separate the grains. Add the ingredients on your chopping board (springs onions, duck, cucumber, herbs) and toss through with your fork.
Tumble the contents of the bulgur bowl into the larger bowl with the dressing. Gently toss everything together (the dressing is not excessive – each morsel is lightly dressed, not drenched so don’t rush this). Top with crumbled feta, devour.