From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Tabbouleh — Parsley, Tomato and Bulgur Salad

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There are a few dishes that anyone who knows anything of Lebanese cuisine will be familiar with.  Most form part of what is Lebanon’s major contribution to food — the mezze.  That of course is the sumptuous, dizzying series of plates that come to your table almost as soon as you have sat down in a Lebanese restaurant.  There are hundreds of possible dishes, but several that are essential.  Of these, tabbouleh stands out.  It symbolises all that is best about Lebanese cooking.  It is healthy, fresh, summery and delicious.  And simple.   Of course, it is not only in Lebanon that you find it.  There are variations across the Middle East, but the true tabbouleh is — I believe — only found in Lebanon.    What you often find in supermarkets these days is not what we would accept as tabbouleh.  Supermarkets serve up penitential dollops of burghul with a bit of tomato and parsley.  That is not tabbouleh. It still infuriates me to see such a wonderful dish turned into something so worthy and boring.

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For us, the key ingredient is the parsley.  We use burghul only sparingly.  In Lebanese restaurants, you will find the parsley cut incredibly fine to showcase the chef’s talent with the knife.  Now when Lebanese cooks make tabbouleh at home, they don’t go to quite that much trouble.  The parsley is left a little rougher.  The key, though, is still to make it fine and smooth.  Never try cheating with a blender.  And if you cut the parsley once and then feel it’s not fine enough and needs to be cut again, that also doesn’t really work.  You have to do it one go.  Traditionally in Lebanon, the ability to make good tabbouleh by a prospective bride would be displayed at teas given at home by her family.  The suitor would be offered arabic coffee, home-made lemonade, expensive cakes from a French patisserie — and tabbouleh.  This would be to give an idea of how skilled his potential future wife was as a cook.  The finer she cut the tabbouleh the better.  It would only be later in the marriage that he might discover she had other uses for the knife.

 

 

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Ingredients

2 Bunches of flat parsley washed couple of times

1/2 Bunch of fresh mint washed

3 Lemons juiced

1 Small onion thinly diced

100g of brown bulgur wheat, fine

4 large tomatoes diced

4 large spoons of olive oil 

1 tea spoon salt 

1 tea spoon cinnamon 

1/2 tea spoon black pepper

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  • Chop the parsley leaves very thin, and wash a couple of times to remove sand
  • Do the same with the fresh mint
  • Put all the chopped leaves in a large bowl and add the diced onion and tomatoes
  • Wash the bulgur a couple of times, drain well and add to the parsley
  • In a small bowl pour the lemon juice, olive oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper and mix well
  • Once you are ready to serve add the lemon sauce to the tabbouleh and mix well
  • Serve with cos lettuce

 

 

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