Is it salad season yet? Let’s just say it is and hurry in summer time, yes? Good. In that case we might as well kick off with one of my favourite ever salads: tabbouleh. Tabbouleh (or tabouli) is a vegetarian salad made from bulgur wheat, mixed with fresh herbs and vegetables and seasoned with plenty of lemon juice and olive oil. It originates from Lebanon and is traditionally served as part of a mezze alongside dishes like hummus, fattoush and baba ganoush. If you’re not familiar with bulgur wheat, but like grains like couscous or quinoa, then jump on board the bandwagon right now (except bulgur wheat is SO much better than quinoa!). Bulgur wheat is really easy to cook with as it just requires soaking in boiling water for about 15 to 20 minutes and you’ll be left with fairly substantial, chunky grains to flavour as you like.
This particular recipe for tabbouleh is one that my mum has made for years and years, and originally came from a Mollie Katzen cookbook. Mollie Katzen is an American chef and cookbook writer, and is well known for her beautifully illustrated (by her) vegetarian cookbooks like The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (best name for a vegetarian cookbook ever right?). This tabbouleh recipe is from The Moosewood Cookbook and has just been slightly adjusted by both my mum and then me over the years. Feel free to adjust the recipe again to your taste – whether you like it to be sharper with extra lemon juice, herbier with the addition of more fresh herbs or saltier with some sliced olives mixed through.
Ingredients (makes 6-8 generous portions)
250g (1 heaped cup) bulgur wheat
360ml (1½ cups) boiling water
1½ tsp salt
1½-2 lemons, juiced
2 garlic cloves, crushed or very finely chopped
4 spring onions
Small bunch parsley
½ medium cucumber
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional extra ideas: feta cheese, chickpeas, olives, avocado, fresh mint
1. Place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl with the salt and pour over the boiling water. Give it a quick mix and then cover the bowl with a large plate. Leave the bulgur wheat for 15-20 minutes until it has soaked up all the water.
2. Add the lemon juice, garlic and a few generous glugs of olive oil and mix well. Chill in the fridge for a few hours.
3. Finely chop the spring onions and parsley, and chop the tomatoes and cucumber into small chunks (I recommend removing the watery middle of the cucumber – you can do this very easily by halving the cucumber length-ways and using a teaspoon to scrape out the middle).
4. Add all the vegetables to the chilled bulgur wheat and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
This is a great side salad to serve alongside a spread of cheese and bread, or grilled meat, fish or vegetables.
It also makes a super packed lunch, which you can bulk up with some extras like avocado, feta cheese, chickpeas or even some roasted vegetables. The tabbouleh will keep very well in the fridge for 4 or 5 days.