Tabbouleh and baba ganoush would have to be my two favourite things to eat in the world. If I were given a choice of my last meal, that is what I would choose – I would need some flat bread to eat with them and, perhaps, if I was feeling greedy I would ask for some feta and olives to accompany them, but no more would be needed. If this were really to be my last meal, these would be the flavours I’d want to remember for eternity; the minty freshness of marinated bulgur, lemon, tomatoes, parsley and olive oil, and the smoky rich complexity of baba ganoush, eaten with plenty of soft, just baked, flat bread.
Although I can eat and enjoy any number of versions of tabbouleh, when I’m making it myseIf, I am very particular about the construction of what I consider to be the ultimate tabbouleh salad. It is all in the balance of flavours, lemon, mint, olive oil and the texture of finely-chopped parsley, tomatoes and marinated but still slightly firm bulgur. The parsley should be finely sliced so the leaves aren’t bruised (not coarsely chopped or, god forbid, whizzed in a food processor). As with all the most simple but spectacularly delicious food, it is all about the care and the balance of flavours which makes it hard to write recipes for them, because they are best made by ‘feel’ and ‘taste’.
Baba ganoush is a very simple quick dip to make – the only thing that may be slightly unfamiliar is roasting of the eggplant over an open flame, which is essential to impart the distinctive smoky flavor. Baking whole eggplants even in a very hot oven tends to make them soggy and fairly insipid tasting. If you don’t have a gas stove, I would suggest roasting them on a barbecue or under a grill to blacken the skin.
Tabbouleh is a great party or picnic salad – I always try to make enough so there can be leftovers for breakfast and lunch the next day. Leftover tabbouleh, feta and flat bread is my ultimate breakfast food. The other great thing about tabbouleh is consuming such extreme quantities of parsley never fails to make you feel healthy and cleansed, as well as being downright good for you.
- 2 medium-sized eggplants (about 800g)
- 4 heaped tablespoons of tahini
- 1–2 cloves of garlic crushed in sea salt
- Juice from 1–2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Sumac or paprika or finely chopped tomatoes and fried pine nuts for garnish (optional)
- Place eggplant right on a medium to low flame on your gas stove, turning over until all sides are blackened and the flesh is soft and collapsed. This will take about 15 – 20 minutes. (Sometimes the thick bottom of the eggplant is difficult to cook so I just prop it against something and sit it directly on the flame until it blackens and cooks)
- Allow to cool in a bowl, pour off the excess juice before peeling off skin. Do not wash the eggplants, as this will just make them soggy and flavourless. There will be some flecks remaining on the eggplants but these just add to the smoky flavor.
- In a food processor, add eggplant, tahini, garlic, salt, olive oil, half the lemon juice and pulse until just combined. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt and tahini if desired (if you don’t have a food processor, the eggplant and other ingredients can be mashed together with a potato masher).
- Serve in a bowl. The baba ganoush can be garnished with sumac or paprika and a swirl of olive oil or finely-chopped tomatoes, parsley and roasted pine nuts.
- 3 bunches of flat leaf Italian parsley ( weighing between 250–300 grams)
- 1 bunch of mint about ( about 50 grams) leaves finely chopped
- 75 grams (or ½ cup) fine ground bulgar (more or less depending on the ratio of bulgar to parsley you enjoy)
- Juice of two lemons
- 400 grams of tomatoes
- Olive oil, approximately 5-6 tablespoons
- One small Spanish onion, finely-chopped or 6 spring onions sliced finely
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Add finely chopped onion to bulgur wheat. Press the onions into the bulgar so the flavors mingle (some people soak the bulgur briefly and then drain but I never do. I like the bulgur to marinate in the lemon and olive oil and I find soaking the bulgar makes it too soggy for my taste).
- Cut tomatoes in half, scoop out the seeds, chop finely and add to bulgar.
- Wash and shake out parsley. Depending on how pedantic you are about your tabbouleh, you can then just gently scrunch the bunch together and slice finely or, if you a tabbouleh obsessive like I am, you pluck the parsley off the coarser stems and bundle this together to finely slice the leaves. If you making tabbouleh for a party, I often do this step the night before and keep the parsley in a plastic container and assemble the salad about an hour before needed. Place parsley in a sieve to drain, along with finely-chopped mint. The drier the parsley and mint, the better it is, because (again) you don’t want your tabbouleh to be soggy.
- Mix parsley and mint through the wheat, tomato and onion mix. Dress the salad generously so it is nicely coated with olive oil. Add juice of one lemon, season with salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon if needed. The bulgur wheat will be very crunchy at this stage but it will soften nicely if you let the tabbouleh rest in the dressing for about an hour before serving.
Serve with cups of lettuce, flat bread, feta and dips of your choosing. Baba ganoush is my personal favorite.