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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  1. I've never had this before, but it sounds delicious! Thanks for the inspiration :)

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  2. Oh I so the addition of the garlic and onion.

  3. This looks delicious! I agree regarding the parsley. Great choice to simmer it down and add a few more flavors.

  4. Ill spoon this tabbouleh, yum :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  5. Delicious Hester, does it have to bulghar wheat or can you use other grains that you may lying about in the cupboard?

  6. Hi David, bulghur wheat is the traditional grain. You can make it with couscous (although I prefer the slightly texture of the wheat) or quinoa. Rice would probably be delicious too. Let me know what exotic grains you have lying about in the cupboard.

  7. Your Tabbouleh looks so fresh and delicious. I love that you used the endive leaves for scooping - that's a great idea!

  8. I love tabbouleh and yours looks perfect! Thank you for reminding me it's tabbouleh season and thanks for sharing your useful tips.

  9. We make tabbouleh often and we probably use too much bulghur wheat but we love it. I love the little endive shovels. :)

  10. @ Maureen - yes! shovels! I was thinking of them as delicate veggie spoons but they are shovels and I have been shovelling this into my mouth in disgraceful (but relatively low-cal) amounts. I've discovered it goes with steak and with curried shark!

  11. Hester, it looks like you prepared a wonderful summer salad, healthy and refreshing and certainly different from the usual salads that make an appearance at most summer picnics or buffets - I really enjoy tabbouleh myself - your version with 200 grams of flat versus the 500 grams leafed parsley sounds like one delicious idea! Nice "scoops" too!
    Have a great Wednesday!

  12. Hester - trust you to magic up a tabbouleh that's done belly-dancing classes. Yum!

  13. Tabbouleh is my favorite and it is indeed delicious paired with flame broiled chicken or beef. I love how you used endive as a spoon. Thank you for the recipe, Hester! :)

  14. Such a fantastic recipe - I especially love that little endive spoon! GREAT idea!

  15. I make tabbouleh but didn't know about the second rinsing with hot water...thanks for the tip. Your version sounds terrific.

  16. I love the addition of garlic and onion. I've often found Tabbouleh a bit lacking of something, and I think it's the garlic and onion I was missing.

  17. Tabbouleh made in your style sounds truly good. I must say, it is looking so scrumptious! Well done, Hester!!

  18. I find often that Tabbouleh has too much lemon in it for my taste- your dash of cinnamon in the recipe looks interesting!

  19. I love this description! (Especially the "little jewels part")! HUGS chica! (and by all means, please don't ever hesitate to add onion or garlic to anything savory!).

  20. Love love Tabbouleh - waiting on having enough parsley so we can have it again - LOVE your version especially!

  21. I'm married to a Palestinian, meaning that I get to make a lot of this stuff! I have come to really love the full on parsley flavour but totally understand the Western need to add some more ingredients :) However, cinnamon.. that would be a horrible crime if served in the tabbouleh here! I think there is often a mix up between North African cuisine and the cuisine of the Levant, which is where Tabouleh hails from. The Levantian dishes will never have any sweet additions such as fruits or 'sweets' spices as cinnamon or nutmeg. I personally cringe at the idea of cinnamon with parsley, but i will try to pinch a tiny bit into a small bowl next time I make it! Will do it without my family in law ever knowing though ;)Also, I think in Palestine it is common to put couscous,not barley.

  22. Oh and we always put onion but no garlic! Onion is often eaten raw here and considered to cleanse and cut through other heavy foods. This is also the idea behind the vast array of pickles.


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