Traditional Arabic cooking, 200pp.
by Miriam Al Hashimi
Garnet Publishing, Reading UK, 1993
Cooking on page 32
Having lived and travelled extensively in the Arab world, I am always interested in books about their local cuisines. Al Hashimi, an American married to an Arab, has done much the same.
In this book she interweaves the history and culture of Arabic cooking, and points out the culinary differences between regions.
I was delighted to see so many of the dishes I know from my travels. Interestingly, page 32 is almost a dead-ringer for the tabouleh/tabouli/tabouleh/tabbouleh I was taught to make in the 1970s.
Chopped herb salad (tabouleh)
1–3 oz (25–75g) fine burgul
4 oz (100g) parsley, finely chopped
5 tbsp mint, finely chopped
5 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
spring of min
3 cos/romaine lettuce leaves
Soak the burgul in water for 15–20 minutes or until softened but a little resistant to the bite. Drain and squeeze out excess moisture.
Add the burgul to the onions, parsley and mint.
Mix the salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Toss into the salad and leave to stand for 15 minutes, allowing the flavours to absorb. Peel, seed and finely chop the tomatoes. Adjust the seasoning to taste buy adding more salt, olive oil or lemon juice. Toss the salad.
To serve, encircle the salad with small lettuce leaves and garnish with a spring of mint.
How it played out
Except for lacking an extra tablespoon of lemon juice, this recipe is almost exactly the same version of tabouleh I was taught to make by dear Palestinian friends in the early 1970s.
That was back in Nebraska when it was a challenge to buy burgul, decent tomatoes, fresh parsley and olive oil. Sometimes we had to leave out the burgul and substitute lettuce for parsley.
Now I can buy plenty of burgul, delicious Australian olive oil by the gallon, and grow Italian flat-leaf parsley, lemons and tomatoes in my garden.
So I made this as written, using 60 grams of burgul, and adding that extra tablespoon of lemon juice. My ‘instructors’ back in the 1970s said it was important to use equal amounts of olive oil and lemon juice, and add a healthy shot of salt, so that is what I’ve always done.
As an aside, the easiest way to squeeze out moisture in bulgur is to tip it into a small sieve and press on it with the back of a spoon.
Oh, and I completely forgot the cos/romaine. I didn’t forget to add it to the picture, rather I forgot to buy it at the market. Oops!
Tabouleh has an identity crisis when it comes to the spelling of its name, but I love it in all its forms.
This version has a perfect balance of flavours, especially because I added that extra tablespoon of lemon juice.
Two tips about tabouleh
Always add that bit of mint (some recipes wrongly omit it) and always chop the mint and parsley by hand. This recipe is not a job for a food processor.