Curly parsley, the 70s food garnish of choice, has perennially been left on my plate uneaten. Pub meals were the main culprit, employing a tuft of green in an attempt to counter balance the deliciously greasy fare served out of their deep fryers and grills. But curly parsley doesn’t have to be the unflattering herb bound to adorn otherwise empty plates heading back to the kitchen. It has a fragrant and robust flavour that can be harnessed for good.
Tabbouleh (or tabouli or tabouleh), the crisp and flavoursome lebanese salad, uses curly parsley as its base. Traditionally made with bulgar and served as a side salad as part of a mezze, tabbouleh lends itself well to improvisation. Parsley, lemon and mint will keep the basic DNA of the salad in tact, but variations in grain, supporting herbs and onion type are acceptable.
My recent holiday to Byron Bay has inspired me to eat healthy, fresh food (take me back!). And now that Spring has arrived in Kyneton, evidenced by a sea of wildflowers in my garden, and the accompanying hay fever, a salad based meal is more than appropriate. So instead of using tabbouleh as a side dish, I promoted it to the main attraction of my lunches this week.
For this version I replaced bulgar with red quinoa, which lends a nutty flavour and a finer texture to the salad. I mixed in some flat-leaf parsley along with the generous handful of curly, to add visual interest, but also because I found an italian parsley plant in my front yard that I didn’t know was there! Pita bread is another traditional accompaniment in a mezze, so I used that as the base for this dish, adding a generous smear of gently spiced yoghurt made pink with paprika and cayenne. This adds a pleasing creamy texture to offset the crunch and sharp bite of the salad.
It’s lovely as a light lunch, but you could also serve this combo with poached chicken, seared tuna or grilled steak on top to make it a more robust meal. I like to serve the elements individually so guests can pick their hot pita from a stack wrapped in a tea towel, smother it with the yoghurt and then top it with the salad and protein, getting a bit messy, but staying true to the mezze roots of the dish. It also works great as a packed lunch, as the salad will keep in the fridge for a day or so.
Parsley and Quinoa Tabbouleh with Pita and Spiced Yoghurt
- 1 cup black or red quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 Roma tomato, diced
- 1 lebanese cucumber, diced
- 2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
- 2 cups curly parsley
- 1/2 cup mint
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Zest of half a lemon
- 1 cup greek yoghurt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprka
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- 4 pita breads
Rinse quinoa under running water. Place in a pot with two cups of water, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer until all the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool (you can place it on a tray and put it in the fridge to speed this up).
While quinoa is cooking, dice tomato and cucumber, slice the spring onions and finely chop the herbs.¬† Place the dressing ingredients in a small jar, screw on the lid and shake to combine, set aside. Place all the yoghurt ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine, set aside as well.
When quinoa is cool, stir in the vegetables and herbs, and then the dressing.
Place pita breads on a hot griddle to toast.
Serve pita with accompanying yoghurt and salad for your eaters to assemble themselves, perhaps with some chicken breast or grilled steak on top, or spread each pita with yoghurt and top with salad to serve prepared, ready to eat.
Salad can be stored in the fridge for a day, just keep the dressing aside and stir through when you’re ready to serve.