Monday, June 10, 2013

Belly Dancing Tabbouleh - Hurray !

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Although a seemingly simple salad with just a handful of ingredients, Tabbouleh can kill or kiss your taste buds.
In the West, we seem to be a little heavy-handed with the bulghur wheat element, when it is essentially a parsley salad, meant to cleanse the palate. However, while I love parsley, recipes calling for five hundred grams of the stuff are overkill as far as my (admittedly, Western) palate is concerned. Five hundred grams is about 5 large bunches of parsley - or enough to garnish every single dish from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, desserts included.
I have aimed for a happy medium with this recipe, including a few extra ingredients which obviously don’t belong in a palate cleanser: onion and garlic are not traditional but they make sure this salad doesn’t sit alone and unloved at a party or barbeque, but is up there showing off what it learnt at belly-dancing class.
Don’t be tempted to use your food processor to deal with the parsley. It will turn it into horrible green mud. To shine in this salad, the parsley (and mint) needs to be shredded as thinly as you can possible manage, using a sharp, sharp knife. The salad vegetables should be finely diced or chopped so that they resemble little jewels. 

For my ‘happy medium’ Tabbouleh, you will need...
475mls water
150mls freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (yellow part only)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
175g bulghur wheat
1 medium red onion (about the size of a tennis ball), peeled and finely chopped
400g ripe tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
300g cucumber, finely diced, skin included
200g flat leafed parsley (stalks removed), washed, dried and finely shredded
10g fresh mint leaves, finely shredded 

125mls extra virgin olive oil
50mls freshly squeezed lemon juice
a small clove of garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Place the water, lemon juice and zest, and the cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Place the bulghur wheat in a large heatproof bowl. When the contents of the saucepan have come to the boil, carefully pour over the bulghur wheat. Set aside until cooled.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and herbs as described in the ingredient list above.
To make the dressing, simply place the dressing ingredients in a jam jar (or similar) with a screw-top lid and shake until combined.
When the bulghur wheat has absorbed most of the liquid and has cooled, drain it in a large colander or sieve and rinse by carefully pouring about 500mls of boiling water over it to remove any excess starch that could make the dish stodgy, and leave to drain and cool once more.
Place the cooled bulghur wheat in a large bowl and gently fluff the grains with a fork to separate them. Add the herbs, vegetables and dressing and gently combine. This salad is best made a day in advance so that the flavours have a chance to meld and mellow. It will keep, covered, in the fridge for about 4 days.

For a low-cal Tabbouleh delivery system use endive leaves to scoop it up!

Variation: add finely diced feta to the salad for an extra layer of flavour. 
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