It was only when I arrived in Beirut I discovered Tabbouleh is not a grain salad with some herbs. Quite possibly the national dish of Lebanon, it is much rather a beautiful deep green, fresh herb salad with some grains.
Neither did I know that you eat the salad with romaine lettuce or tender white cabbage leaves, scooping up the salad with its lemony olive oil dressing, which I think is the most wonderful way of eating the salad. They say food always tastes better when using your hands and this is such a tasty example. (I used some cos lettuce leaves for the photos which sort of worked but I found they were not sturdy enough.)
This recipe was generously given to me by Kamal Mouzawak. Kamal is the brainchild behind Souk El Tayeb and subsequently Tawlet. He started Lebanon’s first farmer’s market, bringing together producers from different communities within Lebanon, a country mostly known for its wars, to showcase and share their food, traditions and hospitality. Not only does the market highlight local traditions and foods but celebrate them and plays a definite roll in uniting people. From the market, Tawlet was born a number of years later. A beautiful, modern and airy restaurant but also a social business where profits support local farmers, cooks and producers. Any given day will have another cook in the kitchen. Each day a cook from a different area cooks the food from his or her area, telling the story of that area. For more photos of my visit to Souk El Tayeb and Tawlet click here and here.
I found Kamal and his team’s work so inspirational during my visit to Beirut. And think that the work that they do in Beirut and further afield in Lebanon can be duplicated anywhere in the world. How much do we know of the other communities we share our cities and countries with? And how good would it be to explore, reconcile and get to know them through our common love for food.
Back to the Tabbouleh and I need to quote the unchangeable rules of Tabbouleh I received from Kamal :
- No tabouleh without plenty of parsley, only flat-leaf parsley.
- Only burghul is used, no other cereal.
- tabouleh and couscous do not go together – they are complete strangers.
- There is no room for shrimp, or other fish or indeed any animal product in tabouleh.
And one last thing : The tabouleh should be juicy, without swimming in liquid. It is a fresh, slightly acidic salad.
- 2 bunches of parsley (about 150g each)
- a small bunch of mint (about 75g)
- 2 medium sized spring onions
- 1 large ripe tomato
- 1/2 glass fine burgul
- the juice of 2 lemons
- 1/3 glass olive oil
- salt and pepper
- romaine lettuce or white cabbage leaves to scoop up the salad
- Rinse the burgul, drain, and keep it covered in a little water to soak for about 30 minutes.
- Strip the mint leaves off the stalks.
- Wash the parsley, mint, tomato and onion and shake off excess water
- Dice the tomato and add to the burghul.
- Finely chop the parsley, then the mint, and mix with the burghul and tomato.
- Finely chop the onions, then add to the rest of the ingredients.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Dress the salad with lemon juice, olive oil and more salt as necessary.
- Adapted from Kamal Mouzawak