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Tabbouleh… a zesty, zingy, mouth explosion of a salad!

This recipe is based on the classic “Tabbouleh” salad beloved in Middle Eastern and Cypriot cuisine (probably some more places too… we don’t pretend to know everything for goodness’ sake!) Like many classic dishes, it is likely that every family from these regions will make it differently and be very passionate about their way to do it.

Our version is not proclaiming to be the “right” recipe and isn’t pretending to be geographically/historically accurate either. It is only based on how we have eaten this (in restaurants/cafes/on travels) and our subsequent attempts to recreate the different versions. We make it without measuring anything and do it to suit our taste preferences. (Priya’s version is low on carbs and heavy on her flavour addictions of lemon, herbs and extra virgin olive oil. Alicia’s is more balanced in terms of the herb:carb ratio and lighter on the oil.)

This tastes insanely delicious, looks absolutely glorious and impresses anyone you serve it to… if that wasn’t enough, it is healthy and fits in with many dietary preferences as, depending on whether you are adding any of the extras, it can be vegan, vegetarian, wheat-free, dairy free, alkalising, low in sugars (so could be good for diabetics) and, without the carbs, should even be paleo/primal friendly. If you have a food processor, this takes just minutes to prepare. If you don’t, well then it will take you longer because of the chopping involved… but food made with culinary TLC (time, love and care) does often taste more delicious… it won’t take more than 10-15 minutes though from start to finish even if you’e chopping by hand.

This is great as a side salad with meat, fish or veggies and is also yummy as a filling in wraps/sandwiches/pittas with meat, fish or a little bit of cheese. If you know your food geography (embarrassingly, we’re better at food geography than actual geography!) then it makes sense that this would be utterly scrumptious with some grilled haloumi cheese (which we will feature soon for those of you who aren’t familiar with it.)

What you need: (to serve 4- 6 people depending on how you’re using it)

  • One big bunch of washed, fresh Mint
  • Two big bunches of washed, fresh, flat-leaf Parsley
  • The juice and zest of 2-4 Unwaxed Lemons – you don’t want wax on these because you’re using the zest in this dish too. Use your common sense, if you like lemon, load it up… if you don’t, then ease off on it… start by gradually adding it rather than going too heavy handed from the outset… it’s like putting on blush/bronzer… you can always add more but you can’t really take it away once you’ve loaded it on!
  • A few Spring Onion/ scallions (including the green bit) or one medium sized mild Onion – finely chopped (dice it or slice it as you wish — but make sure it is fine because big chunks of raw onion in this will knock all the flavours out of balance.)
  • A couple of really good, ripe Tomatoes or a handful or cherry tomatoes
  • A good few tablespoons of good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or, if you’re an olive oil addict like Priya, then show no fear and pour on lashings of that greeny, golden goodness… use common sense for goodness sake… its not supposed turn into a slipping hazard!)
  • Optional additionsto bulk this out try adding some precooked and cooled Quinoa (this should be okay for those with gluten sensitivities) /Bulgur Wheat or Couscouswork on an amount that suits you because we have had versions of this salad with none of these grains in it at all and then others which are maybe around a quarter grain mixed in. In other versions the ratio is totally different and is almost equal quantities of grain to herbs – it really is entirely up to you. If you’re fearful of vampires or you just want to add another layer of flavour you could add a touch of very finely ground Raw Garlic . If you want to add a touch of glam, glitz and opulence then decadently throw in some Pomegranate Seeds because they basically look like rubies against the deep green of the herbs (feel free to buy a whole fruit and get the seeds out — watch out, the juice stains! — or cheat and buy the seeds ready captured in your local supermarket!) A few cubes of Feta Cheese also add a lovely flavour contrast with the creamy, saltiness providing a mellow, tang to the overall dish. You can literally add just one or all of these additions to this dish using whatever quantities work for your taste!
  • Good quality Salt to season.

How to make it:

Wash and dry all your herbs and remove any thick stalks (this is especially the case for the mint which tends to have really wooden stems in parts.) Then, if you have a food processor/blitzer, throw the herbs into it and pulse so that they become roughly chopped. Remember that this is a salad…so you don’t want to reduce this down to a sludgy, wet mess… don’t over do it! If you don’t have a gadget to do the chopping for you then, sit yourself down, put on some music and chop it all up by hand with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors. Once your herbs are chopped, transfer into a large bowl and then start mixing in the rest of your ingredients — the tomatoes, onions, lemon juice and zest (start gradually and add to taste) and the olive oil. Gently stir it all together and only then taste it and start adding the salt to season. That’s it! You’re done! Now just work out what you’re going to eat this with! This dish fits in with various types of eating preference (or food fad) but most importantly it really is just a bowlful of YUMMY! If you go easy on the grain and oil then you can shave off some more calories… but remember this is made with a “good fat” and with “good carbs”… so there is a good reason to include everything! Try it and then tweak it to make it perfect for your preferences!

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