Archive | July, 2012

Takeaway Tabouleh

16 Jul

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You may be wondering why I’m blogging about Tabouleh when there are thousands, if not millions of recipes out there. The answer is partially that many don’t pass the authenticity test. Furthermore, there are those prohibited recipes that call for a food processor which can entice the lazy cook with the promise that it will taste just the same.

Whilst there are a set of rules to conform to when it comes to making Tabouleh, one is still able to showcase their individuality through varying the proportions according to personal taste. Personally, I prefer it with more mint and less burlgar, others with less mint and more burlgar. However, the ingredients that give Tabouleh its unique character should not be substituted with those that don’t feature in the purest form of this salad. While Cous Cous and curly leaf parsley score negatively on the authenticity test, they are acceptable in cases where bulgar and flat leaf aren’t readily available. I for one had to settle (cringing) for curly leaf parsley after committing to making Tabouleh prior to checking if flat leaf was available where I was at the time.

I have been gifted with countless opportunities since I started on solid foods to sample Tabouleh at restaurants perched high in the picturesque mountains of north Lebanon, to the middle eastern stronghold of Lakemba and Punchbowl in Sydney at places such as Jasmin and El Manara; not to mention at birthdays, weddings, picnics, barbecues and in the homes of aunts, uncles, grandmas, and of course in my mother’s kitchen. Each Tabouleh was mentally verified against my authenticity checklist, but I’m not one to spoil the party. Giving constructive feedback on food always places one at risk of snobbery (even when done in good faith).

The other reason behind this post? I was recently asked by a friend for my Tabouleh recipe. I didn’t have one. So, I followed up by making his newly arrived bride and he a tub of takeaway Tabouleh and promised to note down the recipe for a subsequent posting.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 4 -5 cos lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 3 tablespoons of bulgar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • salt

Wash the parsley, mint, tomatoes and lettuce.

Start by placing the bulgar at the base of your bowl.

Pour lemon juice over the bulgar: there’s no need to soak it in water if you have a couple of hours for the bulgar to soak up the lemon juice.

Peel and dice the onion, rub it with salt and then place in the bowl over the bulgar.

Dice the tomatoes and layer over onion.

Gather the parsley into small bunches and align stalks, place a rubber band at the base of the bunch and chop finely with a sharp knife.

Chop up the mint (including the stalks if they are soft and thin, as that’s where all the flavour lies) then layer over parsley.

Chop up the lettuce leaves into long thin strips and then cross ways, then layer over mint.

Add olive oil and toss through, taste and add more salt if required.

Tip: If you do not intend to serve immediately, don’t add the olive oil and don’t toss it through: just cover with cling wrap and set in the fridge. It won’t go soggy if you layer it as described above.

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Mexico revisited – Guacamole

4 Jul

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I started liking guacamole when I first dined at a small ‘hole in the wall” restaurant named Hot Salsa Kitchen in Annandale in Sydney (now closed). I had previously tried it many times but until that occasion, I had only disappointed my taste buds with bland, uninteresting or unauthentic guacamole which was usually suffocating in sour cream. Theirs was simple, creamy and balanced. This was until of course until I tried the one at El Asadero in Tulum. That’s when I went from liking to falling in love with guacamole.

True guacamole in my opinion starts with the aguacate (avocado). The aguacate must be of the highest quality, not bruised or scared, ripe but not overripe or soft and preferably of the creamier type like Hass or the buttery type like Shepard. The rest of the ingredients are there to decorate, accentuate and elevate the aguacate.

Some people like to add garlic and ground cumin, I believe both are unnecessary. White onion is already featured and cumin is likely to form one of the spices in the accompanying dishes especially if its Mexican. To soften the intensity of the onion, I usually rub with salt or sprinkle with salt then beat a few times with the pestle.

  • 4 Hass Avocadoes
  • 1/4 white onion diced finely
  • 1/2 a bunch of coriander chopped roughly
  • 2 tomatoes skin removed, deseeded and flesh chopped up finely
  • 2 small limes
  • Salt

If you have a mortar and pestle (molcajete) use it. Otherwise mash using a fork. Those who choose to use a blender should not refer to it as guacamole but rather blended avocado dip. In my opinion, it loses its character if blended. Blending will ensure that it is void of the various lumpy bits of aguacate which contrast well with the coriander and tomato embodied within the mole.

Start off with the coriander and onion. Sprinkle say 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt over the onion, then beat lightly until the juice is released.

Add avocado flesh, squeeze the limes and continue mashing.

Add tomatoes, beat a little and then switch over to a spoon. Mix it together.

Taste and add more salt or lime if required.

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