Middle Eastern cooking has been a major influence of mine for a long time. The many flavours from countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Syria and are vibrant, zesty and laden with spices and herbs that I love.
Tabbouleh is one of those dishes. A wholesome vegetarian side (although many might say salad) it has a slight variation in its production depending on which country you eat it in. And certainly from which family the recipe has been passed down from generation to generation.
First documented to be served as part of a colourful mezze as early as the mid 19th century, this historical Levant dish is bursting with fresh chopped herbs, tiny cubes of tomato and dense cracked bulgur wheat (although a few variations use couscous). Garlic is optional and to taste.
The dressing is kept simple: olive oil, lemon and salt. While gems of bright pomegranate or a scattering of pine nuts add an opulent layer of flavour and bite.
I like to serve my Tabbouleh as an accompaniment to any char-grilled meat or fish. Lamb being my personal favourite. However, many would argue it’s more than just a super side – it can also be the star of the show. Served up with rich dollops of hummus or baba ghanouj and scooped up with toasted pitta slices or, as a lighter option, lettuce leaves.
And while the preparation can be somewhat timely as much meticulous chopping is involved, the reward is utterly worth it. So grab a sharp knife, a solid chopping board, stick the radio on and start dicing and slicing your way to delicious Tabbouleh perfection.
- Rinse the bulghur wheat in a sieve. Drain, transfer to a bowl. Pour over 200ml boiling water, cover with cling film and leave to soak for 30 mins.
- Gather the parsley in a tight wad and finely shred the leaves with a sharp knife. Don’t worry about the inclusion of stalks. Tip into a colander then do the same with the mint. Wash the chopped herbs and drain well.
- Dice your tomatoes as evenly as possible and finely slice your onions. Add the crushed garlic and transfer everything into a serving bowl, including the now softened bulghur.
- Add the juice the lemons, a few large glugs of olive oil, plenty of salt and cracked pepper. Mix well, then garnish with pomegranate or pine nuts.