This is one of those super refreshing salads that are a must for hot summer days (not that it’s specially hot here now!the weather is being weird lately!). It’s been ages since I prepared it, and I must admit that sometimes I’ve done it with couscous. That’s a big NO for those who want to be authentic with this Middle-Eastern salad, but when you cannot find burghul (or bulghur) I’ve used couscous as a substitute…but honestly is not near the texture of the burghul one.
Most often, when you find this Lebanese or syrian dish in restaurants, you are most often served a terrible couscous salad speckled with parsley and mint. I began preparing it years ago using more bulghur than now, and slowly reducing the amount to give parsley the importance it deserves. I am not particularly fond of parsley, in fact I despise it (I guess I dislike the fact that it has been so overused here in Spain to add a bit of “green” to almost any dish)…except for it in this salad! Combined with the touch of mint and dressed with the soury notes of lemon juice and bathed in olive oil…it shines as if it were a different herb to me.
I wanted to make sure I was on the right track to preparing tabbouleh and to recreate it I searched for recipes that would get me there. On my quest, I fell in love with this blog “Desert candy” with many other authentic Middle Eastern recipes, and of course I found a reference by my beloved Ottolenghi in his Guardian column “The New Vegetarian” (I have both his books, but it’s not there!). So, I played around the recipe until I got a version I really liked. It includes still a bit more burghul than the authentic one, but I like to feel it’s texture and I find it balances the salad. Also, though parsley is clearly the star, I do love the taste of mint to add more freshness, so I hope you like it or that you can adapt it to your best yet version of tabbouleh! Just beware, there’s quite a bit of chopping involved…(and please use a very sharp knife to avoid mushing the herbs)but it’s definately worth the trouble!Enjoy!
(enough for 4 people)
80g of parsley, stalks removed
15-20g of mint (“hierbabuena”, as what we call “menta” is more peppery but not as refreshing)
75-80g of fine grade burghul*
about 45g of spring onions, about 1 smallish one (I used red ones)
450g of ripe tomatoes
The juice of half a large lemon, or to taste
about 50g of olive oil, or to taste
salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste
a pinch of all-spice (jamaican pepper)
* If you prefer you can use other coarseness/grade of burghul, but I’ve recently tried both and this is my favourite one, for texture, looks and easiness of use. If you use the coarse one, I find you must cook it a bit, with twice its volume of boiling water before adding it to the salad.
The more time-consuming task, which is washing, drying and chopping the parsley you can do in advance (or at least the washing and drying, as it is important that it is dry for chopping or you’ll get a puree!). Mercedes from “Desert CAndy” does it differently, placing together small bundles of parsley with stem and all to help hold the leaves. I prefer to wash the parsley and remove excess water, remove all stems, let dry well over some kitchen cloth or paper towels and then chop up.
Like I said the washed and dried parsley keeps really well in plastic bags, like ziploc ones with some paper towels on either side to keep dry.
When ready to begin assembling the salad, wash the burghul over a colander until the water runs clear, and shake off excess water…no need to dry thoroughly, as it will slowly hydrate and swell as it absorbs water from the rinsing and furthermore from the chopped tomato juices.
So, chop up the tomatoes in very small squares. I use a serrated knife to slice in rounds…
…then a veg one to chop it up in 1/2cm squares. Add that, along with it’s juices (if you like that these mix with the dressing and stay in the bottom of the salad…if not, just the chopped tomatoes).
Mix thoroughly with the burghul.
Chop the spring onions as finely as possible and add as well
Season to taste, though it will need to be adjusted later and time to begin with herb chopping unless you had done it beforehand!
Like I mentioned, a sharp knife is important, it makes a BIG difference to the results, leaving a clearly defined salad rather than a wet mush. So, chop your parsley as finely as possible…
Then your mint (also washed, dried and stems removed by pulling downwards) into a fine julienne and then the other way around into a brunoise
Add to the rest of ingredients…
Season to taste…et voilà, ready to enjoy!