Bulgar wheat and spinach pilaf with labneh

Diana Henry serves a delicious vegetarian main course layered with home-made yogurt cheese and chilli roast tomatoes
By Diana Henry
Bulgar wheat and spinach pilaf with labneh
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes plus chilling overnight
  • Effort: easy


For the labneh cheese

  • 250 g Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 pinches salt

For the chilli roast tomatoes

  • 12 plum tomatoes
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 30 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp harissa
  • 2 tsp soft dark brown sugar

For the pilaf

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 175 g bulgur wheat
  • 300 ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 300 g spinach, stalks removed
  • 1 small bunches mint leaves, torn

For the onions

  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 small lemon, juice only


1. For the labneh: prepare this the day before you want to serve the pilaf. Line a sieve with a piece of muslin or a cheesecloth and set over a small bowl.

2. Mix salt, pepper and the crushed garlic clove into the yogurt. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth and then transfer the entire bowl to the fridge to chill for at least 24 hours The yogurt will lose a bit of excess moisture, leaving a firmer mixture, a bit like cream cheese. Squeeze out any excess liquid from time to time until you get a soft cheese,

3. For the chilli roast tomatoes: preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.

4. Place the tomatoes into a small roasting tin or oven proof dish. In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, harissa and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the tomatoes and lightly toss to coat evenly, then turn the tomato halves so that they are flat-side up. Sprinkle over the soft brown sugar over the top and put in the oven to roast for 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are shrunken and sweet.

5. For the pilaf: in a heavy-bottomed pan, lightly fry the chopped onion in half of the olive oil. When the onion is soft and translucent, add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

6. Tip the bulgar wheat into the pan, pour over the stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and let the bulgar wheat simmer in the stock for about 15 minutes, until all the stock has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and cover the pot and let sit for another 10 minutes.

7. In a covered pot, wilt the spinach leaves in a splash of water. Remove from the pan and squeeze out the excess moisture, then roughly chop. Lightly fry the spinach in the remaining olive oil and season well with salt and pepper before stirring into the bulgar pilaf.

8. For the onions: heat the oil in a frying pan until smoking and add the finely sliced onions. Fry for 2-3 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. For the last minute of cooking time, stir in the cinnamon and brown sugar. Once the sugar has melted and begun to slightly caramelise, add a squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

9. To serve, layer the different components in a broad shallow bowl tip in the pilaf, sprinkle on half the chopped mint, then the tomatoes, then the rest of the mint. Break the labneh into lumps and scatter them over the tomatoes. Scatter the caramelised onions on top, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.

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