Tabbouleh

20140416_200852Tabbouleh– a traditional Arabic salad based around bulgar wheat, tomatoes and parsley but you needn’t stop there. Onions, mint, cucumber, chilli, coriander- basically any fresh, flavoursome or crunchy raw ingredients. You can even swap the bulgar for couscous or rice but I don’t know why you would. For me, it’s the firm texture and nutty taste of bulgar that makes this salad so hearty and moreish.

I must say, I bloody love tabbouleh and this bloody love was recently rekindled when I came across Keith Floyd’s version for a celeb chef themed night at Food Club. You don’t see it around very often though- vegetarian restaurants maybe, hipster artsy cafes in galleries. It is a staple summer side on the table when my step mum is cooking/chopping and it got me through many dinners when I first started living alone and opted for making big dishes I could eat all week rather than cook a sad meal for one every night. Times have certainly moved on, but I still love tabbouleh, especially when there’s enough left to scrape into my lunchbox for the next day. Well why do I love it? Let me count the ways:

  1.  It’s fresh, tasty and due to the variation and possibility to add loads of ingredients, every mouthful is a bit different. And by this same philosophy, you have to love it because you can put pretty much anything you want in there.
  2. Bulgar wheat is an underused and yumtastic grain, with a friendly fibre and protein content that just feels good to eat. It’s tasty and savoury and really does flesh out salad ingredients into a satisfying dish for even the hungriest punter.
  3. It’s super quick and super easy to make, as below and as we’ve said before if I can manage it, you certainly can.
  4. As long as you have the basics- bulgar and tomatoes (yeah I don’t favour parsley, sue me) and some kind of dressing you can bang out a tabbouleh-like dish that will suffice.
  5. It is the perfect accompaniment to many of my favourite dinners, namely roasts and BBQs.
  6. It is stupidly diet friendly due to being filling and full of veg. Lower GI and higher protein than a rice option plus bonus iron content. Watch the olive oil and it’s free on Slimming World and some other plans too.
  7. It makes as good a dinner as a lunch as a side dish. I wont rule it out for breakfast on a very hot day either.
  8. It just looks lovely and colourful and will cheer up your plate or buffet table.
  9. It’s vegan and easy to source the constituents organically so should please the fussiest of eaters, unless they are raw types or anti nightshades. And who ever voluntarily cooks for them?
  10. Despite being mega simple it is still a thrilling challenge every time as I strive to one day recreate, or dare I say exceed, my Step Mum’s version. I’m sure she leaves something out when she tells me what she does…..

Not convinced? Go make it yourself then and drop me a line to tell me how totally right I am! My favoured option as below.

Boom Boom Tabbouleh

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Serves 3-4 as a side, 2 as a main course.
Prep time- 40 mins including cooling.

1 cup bulgar wheat
6 large tomatoes
8 spring onions
At least 1/2 cup of fresh corriander
At least 1/4 cup fresh mint
1 large clove of garlic
1tbspn olive oil
1tbspn lemon juice
1/2 tbspn white wine vinegar
Salt & pepper

Start with your bulgar wheat- simply bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a pan, take off the heat, dump in the bulgar wheat, cover, and ignore for 20 minutes. If all the water is absorbed, the bulgar is ready! By rule of thumb it should be tender with a little bite but no discernable crunch. Drain any excess water if needs be- it wont absorb any more after about 25 mins.

I like to spread the still warm bulgar around the bottom of the largest mixing bowl I have to help it cool down.

Now, additions: everything needs to be finely chopped. Not Wednesday-afternoon-I-can’t-be-bothered-really-finely chopped: Proper Finely Chopped. Mere slivers of onion and wee flecks of herbs. Trust me. Start with the mint and stir into the cooling bulgar, I find the residual heat helps to pull out the flavour from the mint. Then, for no real reasons of science I go for the onions then tomatoes and finish with the coriander. Give it all a thorough but gentle mix.
You can make the dressing separately or just throw it in and make adjustments to taste. I like to leave the garlic (minced) to sit in the olive oil for a while before adding to mellow out the flavour a little. If your herbs are fresh it doesn’t need a lot of dressing but the extra crispness from the vinegar and juice make a nice background note, and help it to stay pretty if you aren’t serving straight away. Plenty of black pepper and (Maldon) sea salt and you’re ready to go.

Speaking of serving straight away, this is always my recommendation but if time or company means you are making in advance, cover it well and refrigerate. Same applies to leftovers. Still speaking of serving, serve it with whatever you want but in my house we love it with some roast chicken.

Variations: Abound! Put in lots of parsley if you like it, about half a cup as well as the mint and corriander. Use white or red onions or a mix of all, cherry tomatoes will suffice, add cucumber or peppers or a very finely minced red chilli for some kick. Lose or up the garlic or experiment with sweeter spices such as a dash of cinnamon or even a very slight touch of vanilla (I learned that one by accident). 

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