B E I R U T
Where in the world can you ski in deep snow high up in the mountains between ancient trees famous all over the globe and in the afternoon water ski in the blue waters of the Mediterranean? And at night you were able to listen to top artistes of the music world performing at Baalbek? Yes, that’s right; you guessed it – the LEBANON. This country once was known as ‘the Switzerland of the East’ and its capital Beirut was referred to as ‘Paris of the Middle East’.
Here I made, and later sadly lost, so many good friends. But I do not wish to dwell on sad memories – I prefer to remember the happy fun time I had with those who are no more; those who taught me in their homes to cook certain Lebanese delicacies, those who tried in vain, mind you, to make me race down the mountains through deep freshly fallen snow (yes, I got scared or was it that I did not want to make a fool of myself in case I fell and rolled downhill instead like a snowball?); those who taught me (with success this time!) to water-ski from the Yacht club of the famous Saint George Hotel. And I still remember the thrill being pulled behind my friends splendid RIVA-Boat. But I also remember the times I fell flat on my face, over and over again until I succeeded and managed to stay on my feet for the duration of our round-trip.
Sadly, I do not have any pictures of my own to show you – they are all packed away in boxes back in England, so instead for the picture above, I had to rely on public domain of Wikipedia, with thanks.
So today I like to show you how to make Madam G. famous salad – Thabouleh, of course. There are many more slight ‘variations on the same theme’ than I care to think of; some like to go a bit heavy on the Burgul and some again prefer more parsley – but we belong in the “heavy on the parsley” group.
But with everything else in the kitchen, try this recipe here first and then, if you absolutely have to, adopt to your own taste and liking.
T H A B O U L E H
For a generous helping for 2 people, take
90 g (3 oz) Burghul
1 bunch of parsley, well washed and very finely chopped by knife
1 green cucumber, peeled, deseeded and very finely chopped
5 Spring onions (or Ulli) skinned and very finely chopped
1 smallish Onion (Savallah) coarsely grated
2 large tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp Coriander leaves. finely chopped
2 Tbsp Mint leaves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp good Olive Oil
Juice of 3-4 of our small lemon (or to taste)
Sea Salt (I use Maldon Salt)
Pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper
Soak the Burghul in a large bowl in water for at least 30 minutes.
Put prepared cucumber into a colander with just a little bit of salt and let this drain for 30 minutes.
Take a clean dishcloth and scoop the burghul with no water if possible into the middle of this cloth and wring tightly until nearly all the water has come out. Empty the squeezed burghul into a large bowl. Now proceed in the same fashion with the cucumber. On top of that put all your chopped herbs, oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Stir lightly with 2 forks (so as not to disturb the burghul wheat too much). Keep tasting this mixture – you want a quite sharp, lemony balanced Thabouleh.
Traditionally you would like your serving plate laid out with crunchy cos lettuce leaves, but….. don’t fret if you cannot get those. Well washed and nice looking lettuce leaves, kept in the fridge for a little time to make them a little bit crunchier, will normally do the trick. Just make sure you have plenty of extra lettuce leaves available to scoop up the Thabouleh. Slightly warmed Pita bread goes well with this.
PS: Please do not be tempted to cut your herbs etc. in a mixi – it will not work! A sharp knife is your only perfect tool here.
(Text & pic of Thabouleh © CS/Manningtree Archive)