Thursday, 15 August 2013

Magic tabbouleh

Though I have tried to warm to cauliflower recently, it hasn't yet won over my entire heart. But I have persistently continued my efforts as if there's one thing I've learnt from my Sister and her methods with my crazy fussy Niece and Nephew it is that everything should be tried at least five times before writing them off. So after vanilla-infused cauliflower soup and that classic-for-absolutely-no-reason summer soup I still have three more gos to go. This time I can honestly say I liked it.

The cauliflower challenge seemed like the perfect excuse to try a couscous this trendy Tel Aviv beach-side restaurant launched some years ago. They had replaced couscous with cauliflower which is so much more for those carb-avoiding hipsters, daahhhhhling. As a result this dish is gluten-free AND has no carbs AND raw food AND suitable for vegans. In your face, Gwyneth Paltrow!

Apart from that this is a very classic take on tabbouleh. First thing I learnt when I started travelling in Middle East was that parsley was not just tired branch decorating that equally tired-looking steak served every single petrol station from Helsinki to Hanoi. It is not the token second from the left extra dreaming of a speaking part - very often it is the true star of the production. It is a key ingredient in many of those salads I've fallen in love with on my travels and local markets sell it in bunches as big as my head. It is especially crucial in tabbouleh which, at its simplest is just couscous, lemon juice, loads of mind and even more loads of parsley. Often it is also accompanied with cucumber and tomatos chopped into small cubes. In stead of (or in addition) to tomatos watermelon, chopped into small cubes would work too. Watermelon and mint - they love each other.

The final product is incredibly fresh and summery salad which is as great at picnic tables and meze dinners as it is accompanying köftes, pinchitos or grilled merguez sausages - perhaps with tzatziki, harissa yoghurt or muhammara.

This is a true Middle Eastern staple but has become a favourite the world over. About ten years a I learnt even in France it had climbed into top 3 of nation's favourite foods.

Obviously you could make this out of couscous - in that case cook 2 - 3 desilitres according to the instructions on the packet.

I used the stems of spring onions, but you can use regular onions finely chopped. Especially in the winter when they tend to be a bit leathery and bitter you might want to sauté them first of sweat them in a sieve sprinkled with salt and sugar for about 15 minutes before adding to the salad.

As a light lunch this is enough for 4-6. As a side or part of a meze selection this feeds upto 12.

1 cauliflower  (appr. 760 g)
1 big bunch of parsley (about 6 generous handfuls) finely chopped
large bunch of mint (about 4 generous handfuls) finely chopped
1 cucumber
4 tomatos
handful of spring onions (3 stalks) finely chopped
the juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pomegranate

Trim the woody stalks off the cauliflower - this recipe only calls for the florets. Grate them over a bowl. Chop the herbs and add into the cauliflower. Split the cucumber in half, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and chop into small cubes. Halve tomatos, remove the hard cores, remove the seeds and chop into small cubes. Mix olive oil with lemon juice and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Cut the pomegranate into two, pop out the seeds and scatter them on top of the salad. Season as needed and serve. 

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