HERB BOOSTED TABBOULEH SALAD
- 3/4 cup quinoa or use bulgur wheat see note below
- large bunch of fresh parsley- flat leaf or curly - finely chopped
- handful fresh mint finely chopped
- 1 to mato or 6 smaller tomatoes diced
- 2 spring onions thinly sliced
- juice of 1 - 2 lemons
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Optional - pre-soak the quinoa for 8 - 12 hours in 2 cups warm water with 1 tablespoon cultured whey (the opaque liquid strained from unsweetened natural yogurt) or apple cider vinegar. This helps to unlock nutrients like calcium and magnesium and reduce anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, while improving the digestibility of the seed. Drain and rinse well in a sieve, shaking out as much water as possible.
- In a saucepan bring 1 1/4 cups water to a boil (1 1/2 cups if quinoa is un-soaked). Add the drained quinoa, cover with a tight fitting lid and bring back to the boil. Once boiling turn down the heat and simmer for 12 - 15 minutes until the water is absorbed and tunnels appear in the quinoa. Remove from the heat and leave to steam, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and tip into a bowl to cool.
- Prepare the herbs, tomatoes and spring onions. Fold these through the warm quinoa, squeeze over the juice of one lemon and drizzle generously with olive oil. Don't hold back on the lemon and olive oil you want the salad to be well-dressed. Season well and check flavour adding more lemon and oil if needed. Serve immediately or cover and chill until ready to serve.
I still clearly remember the first time I tasted real tabbouleh. It was while living in Canada and I was visiting a friend in Whistler. One of his roommates (flatmate) was Lebanese who loved to cook his traditional cuisine. One of the nights I was staying they had a good old kiwi-style potluck (I love how we take our traditions everywhere we go!). Included in the food selection was the most amazing salad I had ever eaten. Fresh lemony flavour, bursting with herbs, little pops of sweet tomato and chewy grains. I ate little else and was soon grilling my friends roommate on the ingredients.
The trick he told me was LOTS of fresh parsley and mint, more than you would think, the salad should almost be half grains and half herbs. Plus it must be well-dressed with loads of lemon juice and olive oil so the salad is virtually dripping in dressing. And don’t forget to season well… I have never forgotten that conversation and often make this salad through summer and autumn when we have all the ingredients abundant in the garden. I always make a large bowl to last several dinners and eat it for lunch in between too.
I have made one change to the recipe using quinoa rather than traditional bulgur wheat. Quinoa is seed rather than a grain so is highly nutritious with a good boost of complete plant-based protein. Although it is pricey a little goes a long way, tripling in volume from dry seed to cooked. Of-course you can also use bulgur wheat (preparation instructions below), and cooked millet or buckwheat also work well.