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Here Comes The Sun

July 24, 2012

We’ve now gone almost a whole four days without rain here in Cardiff. I have ventured outside without a coat. I’ve been on the beach in swim wear, and there’s a sort of pale yellow round thing in the sky that looks vaguely familiar. I know this is probably tempting fate as much as hanging washing outside to dry is, but – I think maybe summer has finally arrived in the UK.

So tonight I decided to celebrate with my absolute number 1 hot weather dish: tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh still doesn’t seem to be that popular in the UK for some reason – a lot of people I speak to don’t recognise the name, or aren’t sure what it is until I describe it. Basically it’s a salad made from bulgar wheat and usually flavoured with lemon and mint. It’s Middle Eastern in origin – so you’ve likely eaten it as part of mezze somewhere. They often have it as a starter in Lebanese restaurants. You do sometimes get it in the salad bars in supermarkets, although it’s often not labelled as such.

Anyway, tabbouleh is great partly because it’s made with raw salad vegetables and fresh herbs – so it has a light, fresh salady feel, but the bulgar wheat adds carbs that make it feel a bit more substantial, without being too heavy. I like to eat it freshly made, when the wheat is still slightly warm (there’s no cooking involved, just rehydrating the wheat with boiling water), and I also like it eaten chilled, a few days later straight from the fridge once the flavours have had chance to develop.

My Mum introduced me to tabbouleh sometime in the 1990’s when everyone else thought it looked like cat sick. I don’t know where she got the recipe from but she used to take it as her contribution to fuddles (Those not originally from the East Midlands may refer to definition 3 here: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fuddle).

Usually it would be gobbled up eagerly by people who said “Is this cous cous?”

She also often made a massive bowl of the stuff to keep covered in cling film in the fridge. As a teenager I used to sneak a spoonful from the bowl every time I passed through the kitchen, either on its own or with pitta bread. Sometimes I’d mix it with Tabasco and enjoy the extra kick. For some reason, I found this even more appealing than the Goody Box full of chocolates and biscuits.

 

Tabbouleh has an addictive taste. It’s something to do with the sharpness of the lemon and tomatoes, the heat of the spring onion or garlic, then the coolness of the mint all mixed in with the chunky firm texture of the bulgar wheat – it’s a really big, satisfying flavour, which makes it one of the most rewarding dishes to make and then eat immediately.

This is the tabbouleh I made this evening. I can’t claim it’s traditional in any sense, but the key elements – mint, lemon, bulgar wheat and salad veg are all there.

Za’atar, if you haven’t come across that, is a Middle Eastern condiment that I’ve started buying in the past few years – it’s tasty with bread and oil. I just chucked some into this because I thought it’d go quite nicely. I was right.

Buy the herbs growing in pots, or use ones already in your garden/windowsill obviously. Then they’ll serve you well for many dishes to come. Also, a mint plant makes your house smell nicer than any air freshener ever will.

 

Ingredients (quantities according to taste)

Bulgar wheat

A kettle full of boiled water

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Fresh coriander

Spring onions

Cucumber

Fresh tomatoes (try and use ones that are still quite firm if possible, rather than squishy)

Lemon juice or a fresh lemon

Za’atar (if you have it)

A tin of chickpeas

Fresh mint

 

Pour the bulgar wheat into a big bowl. Bear in mind it trebles in size once hydrated. Drizzle on a little olive oil, plus a shake of salt and pepper and a spoonful of za’atar. Pour the boiled water onto the bulgar wheat so the water sits just above the wheat. Give it a little stir to mix everything up.

Now chop up all your veg and herbs, squeeze your lemon and drain your chickpeas.

Check the bulgar wheat. It should absorb all the water and be soft but still a little firm and not sloppy. Add a touch more water if it seems to have soaked it all up but still be a bit hard.

Add the lemon juice and the chickpeas and stir in.

Add all the other ingredients, a handful at a time, mixing them in very gently so as not to break anything up too much.

Taste to check the seasoning. Add more of anything you especially like. Then serve with toasted pitta bread (and – if you’re really hungry – falafel *drool*).

 

 

 

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. vicky5741 permalink
    July 24, 2012 20:48

    Oh I love me a good fuddle. I’m going to buy some.bulgar wheat and make this asap!

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