Go vegan (2) with tabbouleh
If there has been any challenge in continuing this series of vegan recipes, it has been deciding which of the many options to choose. Having scoured my recipe books for inspiration, one thing becomes quite clear: many old recipes (what one might call ‘traditional’), especially those from temperate climates, are predominantly based on vegetables with meat featuring as flavouring – if at all – rather than as the main ingredient. So, it made sense to stay within the Mediterranean basin for at least one more week with this fragrant, healthy and easy-to-make salad: tabbouleh.
Tabbouleh is a dish whose origin is contested, as it is found (and very popular) in many countries in the Middle East. Its main ingredient is parsley, not cous cous or wheat, as many westernised versions would have you believe.
Whash the parsley
Start by carefully and thoroughly washing the parsley and letting it dry completely. A salad spinner comes in handy for this task, but it isn’t essential: you can leave the parsley to dry on a towel while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Bulgur – cracked, parboiled wheat – is added for texture, nutrition, and to soak up the juices that are generated (cous cous may be used instead in a pinch, but it is not the traditional grain). Bulgur comes in different sizes and, for tabbouleh, you want to find the finest: otherwise, it will be too crunchy in the salad.
Place the bulgur in a sieve and rinse it under cold water for a minute until the water runs clear and the grains are puffed up, having soaked up some of the water. Add this to a bowl with chopped tomatoes and a couple of pinches of salt. Mix well and let the bulgur soak up all the tomato juices, which should take about 30 minutes.
Mix the herbs
By now, the parsley should be dry. Remove the thick stalks and chop all the rest finely with a sharp knife, then place it in a large serving bowl. Do the same with the mint leaves, discarding the dry, woody stalks.
To complete the dish, mix the herbs, bulgur, tomatoes, oil, and lemon juice (start with half of the lemon and add as needed – it should be slightly tangy). If you have managed to find some Lebanese seven spice mix, add a heaping teaspoon of that (you can also make your own by mixing equal amounts of black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and coriander – if you don’t have all of these, add a pinch or two of the ones that you can find) and mix the salad well.
Top with the sliced green onions and serve with some warm flatbread for lunch or a light dinner.
Anastasios Sarampalis is a lecturer at the Psychology Department.