The weather is both beautiful and strange right now: beautiful, because it’s so full of sunshine in the daytime that I am inspired to keep wearing my sandals; strange because as soon as the light goes I realise that I am risking frostbitten toes. In food terms, though, I am still making the most of the warm days and haven’t quite adopted my culinary slippers yet.
This tabbouleh is a case in point: it comes from Nigel Slater’s Tender Vol II, to my mind the best, most informative and inspiring book about cooking with fruit. Whenever I have a glut, from over-shopping, I turn to it for ideas. I particularly love the plum cake, lemon posset and roasted rhubarb but there are lots of savoury recipes too, including one I have just spotted opposite the tabbouleh, for Chinese-style pork belly with plum ginger sauce…in fact, the only thing I find difficult about Tender is that I never have enough time to cook and eat everything (there’s two volumes and 1200 pages of recipes).
But I did manage this and, quite virtuously, used it to make the most of what was left in the flat before going on holiday. I love the simplicity and versatility of a tabbouleh, making it with cauliflower and pomegranates in the winter, lots more herbs and fruit in the summer, and this plum one is a keeper. Really bright and summery, yet with enough warmth to be good for these slightly cooler evenings, it’s great on its own, as a side for the last barbecue of the year, or, as the weather cools off, with some roasted duck.
Makes enough for 2 for lunch/dinner or 4 as a side
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
bulghur wheat or couscous, 150g
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
spring onions, 6
small, hot red chilli (I used a bird’s eye)
fresh mint, about 8 sprigs
fresh flat-leaf parsley, about 8 sprigs
lemon (the recipe uses just the juice but I like to add the zest too)
1. Put the bulghur wheat or couscous into a medium bowl, sprinkle over a little salt and zig-zag some olive oil over the top. Mix the salt and oil in with a fork, then pour over boiling water to just cover. Set aside.
2. Trim and slice the spring onions, both white and green parts and put into a bowl. Halve, stone and chop the plums. De-seed and finely chop the chilli. Remove and discard the mint and parsley stalks then roughly chop the leaves. Add the plums, chilli and herbs to the onions.
3. Zest and juice the lemon and add both zest and juice to the mixture, with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a little salt and pepper.
4. Fluff the bulghur or couscous with a fork and test that it is done (add a little more boiling water and leave to rest a tad longer if necessary).
5. Mix the bulghur with the onion mixture, taste and add more olive oil, salt or pepper to taste.