Living in N7 can be a mixed blessing. You can, for example, buy the above haul of vegetables for less than £9. However, you may have to dodge the people shopping in wet pink slippers to do so.
But I love that pomegranates (2 for £1), white curly kale (£1.49) and Savoy cabbage (65p) are available for everyone, not just the likes of me. Vegetables here are cheap, whether British, Turkish or Cypriot, and it makes cooking and recipe planning a real delight. There are very few things I can’t buy within a five-minute walk.
Having said that, there is nothing I like less than a recipe that has heaps of impossible-to-find or essential ingredients. First, I can’t blog about something that requires jaguars’ earlobes since no one else will be able to buy them; second, I want the recipe to be forgiving enough not to be useless without something or other. Okay, that last bit within reason, obviously, but I still think it’s much more important to be able to get the gist of a flavour and technique rather than the exact effect. For a start you’re less hung up on getting it right.
So, for example, although I started craving this Moro winter tabbouleh last week, I wasn’t stupid enough to think I would be able to recreate it exactly. I just wanted that raw cauliflower (bear with me…), pomegranate and herb combination, a sense that winter isn’t all greens and potatoes. Or doesn’t have to be. And once I decided to make it, there it was, one Google search later. God I love the internet.
It is gorgeous, reminiscent of the perfect Moro food, and infinitely forgiving: last week I had friends round for dinner and got home all of 30 minutes before they arrived. I was planning to make this and, somehow, had forgotten to buy cauliflower. I had quarter of one in the fridge which I bulked up with fennel. So it became more fennel tabbouleh than cauliflower but, you know what, it was still delicious and they loved it. I almost always forget the mint too and, though the original recipe includes bulgur, I like to keep it wheat-free.
This is what I call a ‘handful’ recipe; the best way to measure most of the ingredients is by handfuls and, since no one’s hands are the same size, the end result will vary.
The only thing I don’t think you should adjust too much is the dressing which, as far as I am concerned, is a perfect contrast: sweet and warming, with the pomegranate molasses and cinnamon, against a backdrop of crisp, sharp crunchiness. And you know, these days, you can’t complain about pomegranate molasses being hard to find; even Tesco’s stocks it. Not that, evidently, I’d recommend you buy it there.
Winter tabbouleh (adapted from here)
Makes a bowlful, probably enough for two as a main, three as a side
For the salad
flat-leaf parsley, about 3 tbsp
mint, about 3 tbsp (though I have made it without it)
cauliflower, about ¼ head/250g
fennel, half a bulb
walnuts, about 3 tbsp
seeds from about ¼ large pomegranate (a handful…)
For the dressing (you may not use it all, depending on the size of your salad)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
garlic clove, 1
ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
olive oil, 6 tbsp (best not to use a glorious, and expensive, one; you won’t taste it over the molasses)
¼ tsp caster sugar (optional)
pomegranate molasses, 3 tbsp
1. If necessary, wash and trim the herbs then leave to drain well (or wrap in kitchen paper).
2. Chop the cauliflower into tiny pieces and put in a large bowl.
3. Trim the fennel if necessary, then chop finely and add to the cauliflower.
4. When the herbs are dryish not dripping, chop them finely and add those too.
5. Chop the walnuts and add those too and then, finally, remove the pomegranate seeds from the whole fruit discarding all bits of white pith as you go. There are many views on how to do this but these days, since I never need a whole one, I tend to cut an orange-segment shape out of the pomegranate then peel back the skin; the seeds then come out quite easily. Add those to the rest of the salad and toss everything together gently.
6. Peel and top and tail the garlic, then crush the clove into a small bowl.
7. Add the cinnamon, the molasses, 1 tbsp water, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper and mix together well.
8. Whisk the oil into the rest of the dressing ingredients then season to taste. It will be sharp so add a little sugar if you want to soften this.
9. Finally, toss the dressing with the salad and serve.