In his online summer series Joseph Beaumont revisits some of his favourite recipes and provides hints and tips plus suggestions for the odd tipple to make them even more enjoyable.
I first made tabouli aeons ago from a tattered copy of Claudia Roden’s A Book of Middle Eastern Food. Not bad. Next time around though I pretty much reversed the ratio of herbs to burghul, and suddenly the ancient dish sprang to life.
In the new edition of her book, Roden does the same, explaining that the original recipe had come from the Lebanon to her family home in Egypt well over a century ago, a time “when people needed to fill their stomachs”.
The beauty of this delicious salad is that exact quantities don’t matter. Everyone has their own way of making it. Some add the ingredients all at once, some add them in a particular order, while others like the burghul to absorb the all-important lemon juice before proceeding.
Make it once then experiment.
Burghul, aka cracked wheat, has a light nutty flavour, thanks to the bran remaining after the wheat has been processed. Once found only in health food stores, in recent times it has migrated to the supermarket shelf.
Tabouli goes with just about anything. I enjoy it most in a pita bread with a barbecued lamb kebab and a slather of hummus.
*Burghul is available both finely and coarsely ground; the coarse one is better for this dish.
*If you have it, flat-leafed parsley is better than curly.
*Wash the mint and parsley if necessary and dry in a tea towel.
*I like to chop the ingredients by hand. Use a food processor if you like, but be careful not to turn them to a mush.
Lemon is the predominant flavour of this dish, so an acidic wine, such as a dryish rosé, a pinot grigio or a crisp sauvignon blanc, say, are good choices here. If you would rather counter the lemon with something fruity, go for a pinot gris or a riesling.
juice of 2 lemons
75ml extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large handfuls parsley, chopped
2 large handfuls mint, chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2-3 ripe tomatoes, diced
*Soak burghul in cold water for about 10 minutes then drain in a sieve for about 1 hour.
*Tip into a large bowl with the lemon juice, salt and pepper; stir and allow to stand for 30 minutes.
*Stir in olive oil and then remaining ingredients.
Taste before serving; you may need to add extra lemon juice or salt.
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