Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is a parsley salad, often served as a mezze dish throughout Lebanon and the middle east. It is made with varying amounts of bulgar wheat and slightly different dressings, depending on where in the middle east you are; however it comes though, I LOVE it! Although the Lebanese feel strongly that it is a parsley salad where the fresh herb is the bulk and bulgar is a secondary ingredient, albeit an essential one, I find this dish to be incredibly versatile in terms of both ingredients and accompaniments. The Lebanese may feel strongly about Tabbouleh being a parsley salad, but I’m not a stickler for always staying true to traditional recipes; many are great and they most definitely have their place, but they have inspired many more delectable deviations so I see no reason not to experiment away. As a result I often prepare it differently; if I’m serving it as part of a mezze I always ensure the herb to bulgar ratio is in favour of the herbs, however, I especially love it with Tava (a cypriot baked lamb and potato dish), where I add a little more bulgar than usual as I like it to soak up some of the juice from the meat. And it doesn’t stop at the salad itself; sometimes I serve it with the dressing already on it, other times with it on the side and sometimes without a dressing at all. This is how I make it most often:

THE SALAD

The ingredients:

Bulgar wheat – about 100g
Spring onions – ½ a small bunch (about 6)
Cherry tomatoes* – 1 punnet (about 300g)
Fresh flat-leaf parsley – 1 large bunch
Fresh mint – ½ a small bunch
Salt – start off with a pinch
Juice of 1 lemon

*I don’t want to label myself as a fussy eater, but I am a bit more than fussy when it comes to tomatoes; Ionly seem to like cherry/tiny tomatoes, or at least I haven’t found any bigger varieties that I really like yet. I’m all up for trying  unusual varieties though, so I’ll let you know if I find a worthy contender. My favourite easily available supermarket variety so far is Vittoria from Sainsbury’s.

The recipe:

  • Soak the dry bulgar wheat as per the instructions on the packet*, and once ready drain and add to your serving bowl
  • Chop your herbs (with a very sharp knife or mezzaluna, so as not to bruise them), and add to the bulgar wheat
  • Slice your onions and quarter your tomatoes**, and add them to the bulgar and herbs
  • Season to taste with salt and lemon juice

*I don’t think I have ever read the back of the packet, so I just cover it with cold water and check it every now and then until it is at my desired chewiness. It depends  what I am pairing it with as to how soft or chewy I want the bulgar and resulting salad to be, but usually I like it to be a bit chewy, so I don’t soak it for very long; how long will depend entirely on how much you are making at once but for this recipe, about 10 minutes.

**This is overly fussy I know, but be careful about the way in which you chop your tomatoes. Tomatoes that have been chopped with due care and attention glisten and show of seeds that appear as miniscule nuggets of gold (or emerald, depending on what type of tomatoes you are using). From a more culinary rather than artistic perspective though, they will retain more of their juice, which will burst out as you bite into the tiny quarters; otherwise it’ll ooze out to be soaked up by the bulgar.

THE DRESSING

The ingredients:

Extra virgin olive oil – 3 tbsp
Ground allspice – ¼ tsp
Ground cinnamon – ¼ tsp
Garlic – 1 clove, crushed
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and black pepper to taste

The recipe: 

  • First, mix all of the ingredients except the oil together
  • Finally add the oil
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