I met a lady the other day who thought she was very grand, and in the spirit of thinking she was very grand, wasn’t actually very grand at all, but she pronounced ‘Tabbouleh’ as ‘tab-oolay’ and this made me snigger. I’m not sure what the actual pronunciation is but the way she trilled out this word reminded me of those other grand ladies who say things like ‘Ick-ea’ instead of “IKEA”. I would pronounce it as ‘tab-oo-luh’ but I am a peasant so this may not be correct either.
Anyway, sniggering at the ‘grand’ lady and her ‘tab-oo-lay’ made me remember that I’d been meaning to write about this wonderful little salad for ages! And here we are…
It originates from the Levant region which encompasses the areas of Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Northern Iraq and Southern Turkey today. The Levant region is pretty wonderful because it came up with houmous, felafel, baba ganoush, tahini, za’atar and best of all, baklava. Now that’s a clever place if you asked me! Tabbūle is a Levantine Arabic word meaning literally “little spicy” and comes from Lebanon, specifically. A Turkish variation of the dish is known as kısır, while a similar Armenian dish is known as eetch. In Cyprus, where the dish was introduced by the Lebanese, it is known as tambouli.
There’s no real standard recipe for tabbouleh but the Lebanese rule of thumb is that it must contain more parsley than bulgur wheat or couscous. This gives the salad it’s aroma and helps the beautiful colours shine through.
- 250g couscous
- 4 seriously ripe tomatoes
- half cucumber
- small bunch of spring onion
- 2 handfuls of finely chopped parsley
- 2 handfuls of finely chopped mint (not everyone adds mint but I love it as herby as possible)
- grated zest of a lemon
- juice of a lemon
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- salt and pepper
- Put the couscous into a large bowl. Pour over the boiling water or stock and stir. Cover with a plate or cling film and leave to stand for 5 mins until all the liquid has been absorbed. Separate the grains by roughing them up with a fork.
- Chop the tomatoes in half and then quarter. Scoop the seeded part out and finely cube the remaining tomato. This might seem wasteful and you don’t have to do this but I think it stops the salad being too soggy.
- Finely cube the cucumber and chop the spring onion finely.
- Add the tomato, cucumber and herbs to the couscous and stir through.
- Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, white wine vinegar and salt and pepper and drizzle over the salad.