Summer’s here and in our house that invariably means tabbouleh – the refreshing, herby Lebanese wheat salad that I like to serve with absolutely everything – spicy fried salmon, lemon-roasted chicken thighs, veggie patties, falafel, meatballs….. I even like a little bit on the side of my scrambled eggs in the morning.
Authentic tabbouleh is heavy on the herbs and lighter on the bulghur wheat, but you can really experiment with this dish to find out what balance you prefer. This is based on a classic recipe with of few personal twists classic recipe by adding sun-dried tomatoes and sumac.
Pile it high on a pretty plate for a summer barbeque, and watch it quickly disappear.
One cup of bulghur wheat
3-4 ripe tomatoes
3-4 sundried tomatoes, very finely chopped
One red onion
Half a cucumber
Large bunch flat-leafed parsley
A good handful of fresh mint
Juice of one lemon (and some of the rind)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 heap tsp of sumac (optional)
3 tbsp olive oil
Rinse the bulghur wheat, put in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil gently for five minutes, turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow any remaining water to be absorbed.
In the meantime, chop the tomatoes and cucumber, and finely dice the onion and sundried tomatoes. Personally I like to then marinate the diced onion in a little vinegar for a few minutes to take away the acidity.
Return to the wheat which by now should be cooked but ever-so-slightly al-dente. Season with salt and pepper, sumac and stir in the olive oil. Add the chopped ingredients.
Now finely hand chop the parsley and mint and stir into the salad. Add the lemon juice and grate in some of the rind.
I find tabbouleh is best made fresh and served immediately, while the parley remains green and crisp. The dish will keep in the fridge for a couple of days but will become progressively soggy. It will still taste great though!
Although the classic recipe for tabbouleh is perfect as it is – a little bit of experimentation doesn’t harm. I sometimes add a roasted red pepper or a dozen or so pre-roasted cherry tomatoes. The recipe above contains my choice of sun-dried tomatoes for another layer of tomato-ey flavour, plus I’ve added sumac, which is a Middle Eastern ingredient which to me seems like a perfect addition to tabbouleh. You can pick it up in any Middle Eastern store or buy it on the internet. It derives from a berry, is a lovely deep red colour and has a subtle, slightly fruity flavour.