As mentioned, this tabbouleh has been on its way for a while. It’s such a common side in my household that I can’t quite remember where our version came from. It’s probably mainly based on Ottelenghi’s Jerusalem, but as with many things cooked regularly over time it sort of developed a life of its own. It always turns out slightly random depending on what we have around, so I’ve tried to bring it back to basics. In Jerusalem, Ottelenghi claims that you can tell where a tabbouleh has come from based on the amount of parsley in it. Lots of parsley, not much bulgar wheat? That’s a more Lebanese-style side. More bulgar? That’s more close to the tabbouleh eaten in Palestine. Interesting, huh?
All I know is that in my family, we tend to go for a more bulgar-heavy salad, especially in winter months where something a little more substantial is necessary. Technically, in these months, parsley shouldn’t be available anyway. A quick google shows that it should be around from March to May. How scary! I hadn’t thought about the seasonality of fresh herbs, but as with everything, they shouldn’t be around all year. We just get so used to things being in our supermarkets all the time that it seems second nature to be able to grab whatever you want, whenever you feel like it. I’ll have to have a think about that.
I also know that this tabbouleh is a fantastic way to bring some colour to the table and complements a broad range of mains. It does well alongside stews, like my braised harissa chickpea stew but is also lovely as the main star of the show accompanied by leafy greens and salady bits. The lemon is a fantastic palate cleanser, cutting through anything else – having tabbouleh on the side makes the whole meal feel very clean and fresh.
It’s always great to have a supply – this keeps well in Tupperware or a covered container in the fridge for a few days.
200 g fine bulgar wheat
200 g fresh flat-leaf parsley, torn
30 g mint leaves, torn
20 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1tsbp olive oil
Juice and zest of one large, unwaxed lemon
Pomegranate seeds (optional)
Rinse the bulgar wheat in a fine sieve under cold water until it runs through clear – this is to remove the starch. Transfer to a bowl and pour in hot – not boiling – water to cover, before leaving to soak for 15 minutes. Drain the wheat in a sieve (this might require some vigorous shaking) before transferring to a mixing bowl. Stir in the shredded herbs to combine.
In a separate bowl, mix together the tomatoes (with as much of the juice and seeds as possible) with the cucumber and green pepper. Season with black pepper and add the olive oil and lemony bits. Stir it up to combine well.
Finally the veg and bulgar wheat can come together! Transfer to a big serving bowl and combine everything well before sprinkling over the pomegranate seeds, if using.
Note on Pomegranates
I’m sure many of you have already found this neat trick for deseeding pomegranates – I can’t take credit for it. But, it has honestly been a game-changer! Gone are the days of shelling the seeds individually – this hack may not take ten seconds as some claim, but it certainly does speed things up immensely.
Take up a sharp knife and score the circumference of the whole fruit around a third of the way down from the spriggy top bit (the technical term). Be careful not to cut too deep, the aim here isn’t to cut the seeds, only to pierce through to the pods inside the fruit. Carefully peel away the top third of the skin, this should leave you with a cross-section that clearly shows the segments of the pomegranate. Cut down the obvious pithy lines, again not too deeply, before gently prizing apart the fruit. If you’ve done it properly the pomegranate should open up like a flower and the pithy membranes should peel away easily. Now all you have to do is pick out the seeds – I find gently rubbing the seed pods loosens them up fairly quickly. Job done!