Summer popped up again yesterday, so how lovely to cook a summer meal and eat in the garden in the evening, still warm from the sun. I love making things like Tabbouleh or Couscous salads, full of fresh herbs and summer freshness; and there’s usually enough to put a second portion (or more!) in the fridge for the next day’s lunch. I also love my griddle and will often leave some chicken, lamb or fish to marinate in the afternoon ready to be griddled for supper. Working from home has advantages – if you think supper, you can get something going!
I started thinking Tabbouleh at the weekend when I saw a recipe in the paper: lots of greenery and halved cherry tomatoes. An authentic Tabbouleh should look more like a green salad than a grain one and too often in UK it’s served as a grain one with a few odd flecks of greenery in it. However, as an accompaniment to meat or fish, it’s quite nice to have something reasonably substantial so the following has got quite a bit of grain, but, as with so many food things, this is simply personal. The ingredients remain the same … it’s just a question of proportions and aiming for what you like best. So experiment!
I don’t know why ‘pistachios’ came into my head when thinking ‘tabbouleh’ but they did so in the supermarket I picked up a packet of ready shelled pistachios. And, I thought, their lovely green colour will look great with all the parsley and mint. I bought some organic coarse bulgur from Revital in Richmond which sells a great selection of whole foods and supplements and lots of things healthy – and the people there are very helpful and knowledgeable. I also always buy organic couscous there because I think these grains are best when they are as unrefined as possible, retaining not only their goodness but their bite and taste.
I’ve usually followed the Tabbouleh recipe in Moro – The Cookbook (No.6 in my Top Ten). The one I made yesterday varied slightly from this and incorporated the idea of halved tomatoes from the newspaper version, but I did use Moro’s brilliant spicy dressing.
Because I bought coarse rather than fine bulgur (fine wasn’t available!), the instructions said to cook for ten minutes. I thought this was a bit over the top but did soak my grains in hot water rather than cold and that worked perfectly. So … put half a cup of bulgur wheat in a bowl and add a whole cup of hot water and a little salt. Leave for about half an hour, taste a little to check it’s ready (you want a little bite but for it not to be hard), then drain. If it’s very wet still and you’re in a hurry, lay it on a clean tea towel and pat dry. Put the bulgur in a bowl and add the following: a small packet of flat parsley (20g) chopped; an equal amount of fresh mint (I had this in my garden so just cut a bunch roughly the same size as the parsley), chopped; 2-3 spring onions, finely chopped; 2 tablespoons of shelled pistachios, chopped; about half a small punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved. The addition of the pistachios gives this a nice extra nutty, slightly creamy taste, and a slightly crunchy texture.
Make the dressing: into a jar with a lid add a small garlic clove crushed with salt; 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon; 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice; 3 tablespoons olive oil; 2 tablespoons lemon juice; salt and pepper. Put the lid on, shake to mix all together and pour over the Tabbouleh and gently fold in and mix everything together. You can eat straight away but it’s nice to leave it for about half an hour for the grains to take up the taste of the dressing and other ingredients.
For one chicken breast: mix together in a shallow bowl 1 teaspoon harissa paste (easily available in supermarkets), about twice the amount of olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice; whisk together with a fork. Put a few slashes (not too deep) with a sharp knife across the top and bottom of the chicken breast then lay in the marinade. Turn and toss a bit to make sure all the chicken is covered, and get the marinade into the slits. Then leave in the fridge till needed – preferably at least an hour. When ready to eat (and your Tabbouleh is ready!), then heat a griddle and cook till just done – be careful not to overcook or the chicken will dry out. As you turn your chicken while cooking, use a pastry brush to brush a little more marinade over the top for extra flavour and to keep moist.
Put the chicken and Tabbouleh on a plate, sit down … relax … eat and enjoy!