Tabbouleh comes from Lebanon where it is often served with fresh young vine leaves which are used to scoop up the salad. Cos lettuce leaves make a good alternative “bed” for the salad. The proportion of herbs to cracked wheat (Bulghur or Bulgar) is, in Lebanon, usually higher than that given below, so the overall colour is green flecked with white. In Britain we are less used to eating herbs in such abundance, and may even find such quantities hard to come by, but do feel free to vary the proportions given below.
4 oz Bulgar wheat
1 bunch of spring onions
4 handfuls of chopped flat leaf parsley
1 handful of chopped Morrocan mint
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil
Put the bulgar wheat in a bowl and cover it by about an inch with cold water. Leave to soak for three quarters of an hour and then drain off any excess liquid.
Make a dressing by shaking or whisking together the lemon juice, salt and pepper and olive oil. Pour this over the drained wheat, cover and leave in the refrigerator for half an hour for the wheat to absorb the dressing.
Add the chopped spring onions and herbs and mix thoroughly before serving.
1 large pot (500g) Greek strained yogurt (or strain natural yogurt)
1 small cucumber
1 clove garlic
Morrocan mint (a good handful)
For the best results the yogurt you use should be really thick. You can achieve this by turning it out into muslin and suspending this over a bowl in the fridge overnight. Make sure there is a good space beneath the muslin, as a surprising amount of whey will drain off.
The cucumber also needs to be as dry as possible, but do not add salt, as this reacts with the yogurt and makes it go lumpy. Instead, grate it into a sieve and leave it to drain for at least 10 minutes, and then dry it in kitchen paper.
Chop the garlic very finely and mix it with the yogurt, cucumber and chopped mint to taste.
Serve with pitta bread.
FRESH PEA & MINT SOUP
You see many recipes for this soup made with frozen peas. Frozen peas are not a bad standby vegetable, but they do contain additives, some to maintain the colour, others to help the frozen peas flow freely from the pack – my husband gets an allergic reaction, especially if the cooking liquor is used. When fresh peas are really fresh they are a fantastic revelation to people who have only ever eaten frozen. The difficulty is in buying them really fresh. Obviously a supermarket is no good, the transportation time is simply too long as the natural sugars begin to turn to starch the moment the peas are picked. I like to pick peas at pick-your-own farms – but frustratingly my local one doesn’t let you on to them until the pods are overfull and past their tender best. The Farmer’s Market is now the best option if you don’t grow your own. I once ate this soup in Italy garnished with drops of Balsamic vinegar so thick they were like honey – both in consistency and almost in taste. It made me realise what all the fuss about Balsamic Vinegar was about – buy the most aged you can afford and treat it like the nectar that it is.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 bunches of spring onions
1½ pints chicken stock
1¾ lb fresh peas (shelled weight – buy at least double this weight)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh mint plus 1 sprig
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
¾ pint double cream
handful of wild rocket and best aged Balsamic Vinegar for serving
Chop the onions and cook them gently in the olive oil until they are soft but not at all coloured.
Add the stock and bring it up to boiling point then add the peas and a sprig of mint. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the peas are very soft.
Remove the sprig of mint and replace it with the chopped fresh mint.
Liquidise the soup then pass it through a sieve to ensure it is really smooth.
Add up to half a pint of cream and season to taste with salt, pepper and a little sugar.
The soup can be served chilled or re-heated. If re-heating do not allow the soup to boil or it will lose its fresh colour. Add a swirl of cream to each bowl before serving and top with a few fresh wild rocket leaves and drops of aged Balsamic Vinegar.
There’s very little to making this so why anyone would buy it I don’t know. I don’t feel the need for it in winter when there is no fresh mint, but if you do I would suggest Mint Jelly is a better option.
To make your own sauce: heat some decent wine or cider vinegar in a small pan. Add a teaspoonful of sugar. Chop the mint reasonably finely and add to the hot vinegar. Remove immediately from the heat and leave to infuse and cool down. Taste before serving, if you think the vinegar is too strong you can add a splash of water.
BLACK MITCHAM PEPPERMINT SORBET
8 oz/225g sugar
1¼ pints/700ml water
A handful of Black Mitcham Peppermint leaves (about a dozen tops)
1 egg white (optional – see method below)
Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and begin to heat. Stir until all of the sugar has dissolved. Now turn up the heat until the liquid comes to the boil and continue boiling for 10 minutes, by which time it should be a light syrup.
Roughly chop or crush the peppermint to release the oils. Add to the syrup and leave to infuse. When it is cool, remove the mint and refrigerate the mint syrup until it is completely chilled.
You can freeze this syrup just as it is, but you either need an ice-cream maker to produce a good texture or I would recommend using the egg white and following the instructions below. I know many chefs will throw up their hands in horror at this suggestion – a more acceptable way of preventing the mixture from freezing solid is to add a teaspoonful of glycerine. What the egg white will do is make the sorbet lighter, both in texture and taste, and I find that without it the sorbet is very powerful in flavour. So if you are not using the egg white serve only the tiniest portions or use fewer mint leaves.
Part freeze the mixture, either in an ice cream maker or your freezer, and then add the egg white, whisked well but not as far as soft peaks. If you have an ice cream machine you can just tip it in whilst the mixture is churning and the machine will incorporate it for you. If you are dependent on just the freezer, fold the whisked egg white in with a spoon – it will be difficult to get it evenly incorporated, but after another half an hour or so of freezing, turn the whole lot into a food processor and whizz up briefly. Return to the freezer to complete the freezing.
FRESH PEPPERMINT TRUFFLES
Makes about 20
130 ml double cream
1 tbsp chopped Mitcham Black Peppermint leaves
200 g good dark chocolate (one you would like to eat!) in small pieces
2 tbsp cocoa powder
Heat the cream in a small pan just to boiling point. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped peppermint leaves. Leave to infuse for 20 minutes.
Strain the cream into a clean pan, slightly larger than the first, to remove the mint leaves. Put the pan back on a very gentle heat and stir in the chocolate pieces with a wooden spoon. As soon as all the chocolate has melted place the pan in a bowl of iced water and continue stirring as the mixture cools and thickens. When it is sufficiently cool to hold its form, place teaspoonfuls of the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a second sheet of paper and place in the freezer for about half an hour to set more firmly.
Remove the top sheet of paper and sieve half of the cocoa powder onto this. Sieve the other half over the truffles the turn them onto the other sheet of paper so that the bottoms are now also coated in cocoa. Use the palm of your hand to gently roll them into a ball. Don’t spend too long on this as the chocolate soon melts and it all gets rather messy, to me it doesn’t matter if the truffles are rather roughly shaped.
Store in a container in the fridge and eat within a week.