Vegetarians can disregard the chicken because this lovely, fresh-tasting and summery salad is wonderful with or without it – perfect on a hot day.
Originating from the eastern Mediterranean, Tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgur (cracked) wheat that’s been soaked and softened. Because many people can’t tolerate wheat in any form, cooked quinoa makes a perfect substitute and packs a good punch of protein.
I love quinoa; great nutritional value aside, its light nutty taste makes it versatile enough for baking in desserts, burgers, soups, casseroles, etc.
A tip – I make a batch once or twice a week and sprinkle it over fresh fruit – and adding it to all types of salads will give them substance and a delicious boost.
Back to Tabbouleh – it helps if you have a food processor to finely chop the herbs but doing it by hand just takes a few extra minutes. I also recommend making it at least a couple of hours ahead to allow the flavors to develop and it will last for several days kept covered in the fridge.
If you want to increase the amount of quinoa, just double the quantities of everything – the cooking time remains the same.
I like to serve it with a few soft lettuce leaves – the sort you can fill with Tabbouleh, roll up and stuff straight into your mouth. Perfect picnic fodder!
(Serves 4-6 with chicken – or 6-8 without, as a side salad)
1/2 cup (120ml) of quinoa
2 oz (50g) of Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
8 scallions (spring onions) trimmed and chopped, including green parts
4 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 large ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped (see below)
2 oz (50g) of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, stalks discarded
4-6 ins (10-15cm) of hothouse (English) cucumber, unpeeled and chopped finely
4 tablespoons of extra-v olive oil
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Optional – half a roasted chicken (preferably organic), skin and bones removed then cut into bite-sized chunks
To cook the quinoa, bring 1 cup (240ml) of water to a rapid boil, add salt to taste and pour in the quinoa. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 12 minutes then turn off the heat and fluff it a bit with a fork (it won’t look cooked) – put the lid back on and leave it for another 15 minutes to swell and soften. Transfer it to a large bowl to cool.
Add the chopped parsley and spring onions to the cooled quinoa then pour over the lemon juice and salt to taste. Mix everything together well and chill it for at least 1-2 hrs.
To skin and de-seed the tomatoes cut a small ‘X’ in the top and pour boiling water over them. After a minute pour the water away and once they’re cool, peel the skin off.
Cut them in half around the ‘equator’ and on a cutting board (preferably with a grooved edge to catch liquids) place them cut-side down and gently press down with the palm of your hand until the seeds all squirt out. You don’t need to be too pernickety about it as one or two seeds may still lurk in there – just squeeze any remaining seeds out with your fingers.
Finely chop the remaining tomato flesh and add this to the chilled quinoa mixture along with the chopped mint, cucumber, olive oil and black pepper. Give it all a good stir and check the seasoning.
If you’re going to serve this with chicken, fold it into the Tabbouleh at the last minute and check the seasoning once more.
Serve the Tabbouleh with soft lettuce leaves.