MICHAEL GALLAGHER WRITES

Tabbouleh

Cracked wheat and parsley salad

I first tasted tabbouleh on my 19th birthday. This was the 1970s, and my mother had travelled to Auckland to take me and my friends out to dinner - and I had my heart set on going to a newly opened Lebanese restaurant that I'd heard about. When we got there, it was clear we should have booked: it was packed out...and we were quite a large group. Then I noticed another Lebanese restaurant across the road which was empty of customers.

We had the entire place to ourselves, so the staff suggested we allow them to provide a feast of everything on the menu. Since we had no idea what to order, we readily agreed. The food was a revelation (and not simply because they explained each new dish to us as it came out; it was delectable), they treated us like kings, and all this for a pre-arranged pittance per head. One of the best celebratory meals of my life!

Bulgur wheat is made from cracked grains of wheat that have been pre-cooked and dried. Tabbouleh is a slightly nutty, chewy salad that should taste mainly of parsley, with the other ingredients providing the odd burst of flavour.

Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish.

Ingredients

1/2 cup bulgur wheat

2 medium tomatoes

a 6-inch length of cucumber

1/2 teaspoon of salt

60g - 90g parsley

1 spring onion, finely sliced

a small handful mint leaves, finely torn (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil

the juice of up to 1 1/2 lemons

salt & pepper to taste

If you're unfamiliar with bulgur wheat, find out more about it here:

Method

1.

Between 12 and 24 hours before you plan to make the salad, cut the tomatoes and cucumber into small, even dice. Sprinkle with a good 1/2 teaspoon of salt, give it a mix, then cover and store in the fridge. Turn the diced vegetables occasionally to redistribute them in the resulting brine.

2.

Time to make the salad. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, lightly salt it, and add the bulgur wheat. Simmer for 12 minutes then drain well. Transfer it to a mixing bowl to cool (approximately 2 hours), then rinse out the sieve and set the tomatoes and cucumbers to drain until the wheat is cold.

3.

Fork the wheat to fluff it up, then add the drained vegetables. Remove any coarse stems from the parsley - you can freeze them for stock - and chop it as finely as you can. Slice the spring onion finely, and add it with the parsley to the wheat in the mixing bowl. Tear up the mint leaves (if using) and pop them in too. Dress with the oil and the juice of 1 lemon, then taste and adjust the lemon, seasonings, and the oil if necessary.

Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.

Did you know?

You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series:


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