Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh salad
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 for tabbouleh salad
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
2-3 tomatoes
½ medium cucumber
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional extra ideas: feta cheese, chickpeas, olives, avocado, fresh mint

Method
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.
Soaking the bulgar wheat
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.
Soaked bulgar wheat with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil
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).
Chopped vegetables for tabbouleh salad
4. Add all the vegetables to the chilled bulgur wheat and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Adding vegetables to the bulgar wheat
Mixing the vegetables through the bulgar wheat
This is a great side salad to serve alongside a spread of cheese and bread, or grilled meat, fish or vegetables.
Tabbouleh salad
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.
Tabbouleh salad served with ripe avocado for lunch

Fennel and Courgette Salad

Courgette and fennel salad  topped with fennel fronds and red chilli
We’re finishing off Salad Week with a vegetable that is very much in the love-hate category for most people. If you love fennel, then you are definitely going to love this salad and will take no convincing to try making it. However, even if you think you dislike fennel, I’m going to try to persuade you to give this recipe a go anyway. I used to despise fennel – I found the flavour of cooked fennel overwhelming and just couldn’t understand how anyone could enjoy it. Then I discovered Jamie Oliver’s raw fennel and radish salad and suddenly I saw the light. Raw fennel is crisp, sweet and juicy. It still has a strong aniseed flavour, but somehow this worked for me in its fresh, raw form. After a few years of enjoying raw fennel in salads, I now find myself liking cooked fennel in certain dishes – particularly with white fish. I’m on the path to fennel enlightenment.

In my mind, this is a perfect way to get on board with fennel. The intense vegetable can stand up to the chilli heat and zesty lemon, and the courgette adds a sweet mellow flavour. If you really can’t stand fennel, but want a similar salad then substitute it for a bunch of raw asparagus sliced into thin shavings with a speed peeler. Or just double up on the courgette quantities, especially if you can get your hands on both green and yellow courgettes for a burst of colour.
Ingredients for courgette and fennel salad
Ingredients
1 medium courgette
2 small fennel bulbs
A few sprigs of mint
1 red chilli
1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Slice the courgette into thin ribbons. You can do this with a sharp knife if you have the patience and don’t want the thinnest possible slices, but the easiest way to achieve ribbons is with a speed peeler. You can also use a mandolin or the slicer attachment on a food processor, if you have those. Place in a large bowl.
Thinly slicing the courgette with a speed peeler
Thin ribbons of courgette for a courgette and fennel salad
2. Remove the fennel tops (keeping the fronds for decoration) and the bases. Thinly slice with a knife (or again with a mandolin or food processor if you wish) and add to the courgette.
Thinly slicing the fennel for a raw salad
3. Finely chop the leaves from the mint sprigs. Slice the chilli thinly on the diagonal. It’s a good idea to try a small piece of your chilli first to find out how hot it is – I used about half of the chilli shown.
Chilli and mint for a courgette and fennel salad
4. Add the chilli and mint to the vegetables along with the zest from one lemon. Mix thoroughly, adding the juice from half the lemon and the olive oil. Season to taste and place in the fridge to chill for half an hour or more.
Seasoning the courgette and fennel salad with lemon zest, chilli and mint
Mixing the ingredients for courgette and fennel salad
5. Once chilled give the salad another mix up and transfer to your serving bowl. Top with some of the delicate fennel tops and some extra sliced chilli.
Courgette and fennel salad topped with fennel fronds and sliced red chilli
This salad is very versatile. We had it with steak, chips and a large glass of red wine, but it would be perfect served with some grilled chicken or fish and chilled white wine.
Courgette and fennel salad served with steak, chips and red wine
How do you feel about fennel? Have you always loved it, grown to like it or is it firmly on the hate list? Might this recipe change your mind….?

Refreshing Watermelon Salad

Fresh watermelon and mint salad
Ok so this one might take some convincing. In fact, when I served it up last Friday night there were initially some suspicious glances and tentative prods with forks. But once everyone had tucked in and tried some, the conclusion was that this salad was a resounding success.

This recipe comes from a family friend of many years (Thanks Valerie!) and I absolutely adore it. I cannot get enough of watermelon, so I guess it’s an easy sell, and I’m sure lots of you love it too, as a sweet snack or dessert. However, you might not ever have had it in a savoury dish and right now you may be shaking your head at the computer screen, with an eyebrow sardonically raised. But, believe me, the addition of sharp onion, aromatic mint and tangy vinegar creates an unbelievable salad. It’s fresh, it’s sweet and savoury (the best combination to ever exist) and it’s super-summery. This is a refreshing, unusual side dish to serve up at a summer dinner or barbecue, and eat in the warm evening sunshine.
Ingredients for refreshing watermelon salad
Ingredients
1 medium watermelon
1 small red onion
4-6 sprigs of mint
4 tbsp rice vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Method
1. Remove the rind from the melon and chop into bite-size chunks. If your watermelon is full of black seeds you probably want to remove these, but the smaller, thinner white ones aren’t a problem.
Chopped watermelon for a watermelon and mint salad
2. Dice the red onion and finely chop the mint leaves.
Chopped red onion and mint for watermelon salad
3. Mix the red onion and mint with the water melon chunks and sprinkle over the rice vinegar. Season generously with black pepper and toss thoroughly.
Refreshing watermelon salad
Chill in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. This salad is best eaten on the day you make it, as the watermelon doesn’t keep for long once it’s cut up.

Watermelon salad? Be brave and give it a go!

Sweetcorn Salsa Salad

Sweetcorn salsa salad served with lime wedges
This week we’re all about salads. But never fear, these are not limp salad leaves topped with a sad halved cherry tomato and slice of cucumber, nor an uninspiring pile of shredded iceberg lettuce. These are fresh, vibrant, interesting salads that are bursting with flavour and made for summer eating.

Today’s recipe is a sweetcorn salad. It’s sweet from corn and cherry tomatoes, savoury from onion and pepper, fragrant from coriander and zingy from lime juice. The dish can take on different guises, as the name suggests: keep the ingredients chunky as I did in order to serve it as a salad, or finely chop everything to turn it into a delicious salsa which could be served with tortilla chips. If you feel like something spicier then some finely chopped red chilli would be an excellent addition.
Ingredients for sweetcorn salsa (minus the red pepper I forgot!)
Ingredients
250g frozen sweetcorn
150g cherry tomatoes
6 spring onions
Small bunch of coriander
1 red bell pepper
1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Remove the sweetcorn from the freezer and allow to defrost at room temperature for a few hours. Quarter the tomatoes, chop the spring onion into small pieces and finely chop the coriander. If you forget about the red pepper (read: I forgot to buy a red pepper) then just chop it into squares and add to the salad later!
Chopped ingredients for sweetcorn salsa (minus the red pepper I forgot!)
2. Place all the vegetables and the coriander into a bowl and mix well.
Vegetables for sweetcorn salsa salad
Mixing the ingredients for homemade sweet corn salsa salad
3. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the salad and drizzle with olive oil. Season to taste and pile into a serving bowl. Top with some extra lime wedges if it takes your fancy.

This dish is the ideal side dish for a barbecue. The first time I made it we had it with chicken marinated in my homemade barbecue sauce and sticky glazed sausages, and the second was as part of a Spanish meal alongside barbecued paella and some small tapas dishes. It would transport well in a tupperware tub for a picnic, or, as I suggested above, chop it finely and serve as a starter. I think this just might be my new favourite summer salad!