Summer is fast slipping away – as I type, it’s drizzling outside. Not that we had a particularly brilliant summer anyway, here in the UK; it’s been warm – hot on occasion – but inconsistently and unreliably so, in the true British fashion.
The onset of autumn fills me with both excitement and sadness. I love the crispness of the autumn air, the leaves turning brown on the trees, and the rich smell of stews bubbling away in the kitchen. Autumn to me means a transition to warm jumpers, jeans and boots, darker evenings, and the approach of Christmas. That being said, I will miss the warmth of summer, and the abundance of its produce: plentiful fresh berries, tomatoes, podded peas, and courgettes. Where summer calls for iced coffees and chilled cider, autumn draws me towards hot chocolates and big mugs of tea.
So I am clinging to the last vestiges of the sunny season with this light and tasty salad, similar to a tabouleh (tabbouleh? tabouli?), but not entirely the same. It’s one of my favourite warm weather lunches, although today it was eaten in the shadow of grey skies outside.
It’s gloriously simple, and all of the flavour comes from the freshness of the ingredients . Tabouleh uses bulgur wheat, but I opted instead for ‘ptitim’, an Israeli toasted pasta also known as Israeli couscous. It’s a plump and big grain, great in salads, as it’s quite flavourless – so taking nothing away from the main ingredients. To make this, you’ll need:
- couscous, or bulgur wheat – as much as you have the appetite for!
- seven or eight cherry tomatoes
- 10cm of cucumber
- half a tin of chickpeas
- two handuls of fresh parsley
- a handful of rocket, or other peppery salad leaves
- a basic vinegarette: I’ll explain how I made mine.
Start by cooking your couscous according to the packet instructions. Mine required ten minutes of simmering on a low heat, until the water had evaporated.
In the meantime, quarter the cherry tomatoes and chop the cucumber into 1cm dice. Open and drain the can of chickpeas, and roughly chop the parsley – if you have mint, use it too, for extra flavour.
Make your dressing; mine was simply the juice of half a lemon, a good splash of white wine vingear, and slightly more than a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, with plenty of salt and pepper. I read recently that eating vegetables with a little fat helps with the absorption of nutrients, so the oil provided an extra nutritional bonus.
In a bowl, add the chickpeas, chopped herbs and vegetables to the couscous. If you want your salad cold, leave time for the cooked couscous or bulgur wheat to cool down before adding the other ingredients. (I couldn’t wait.) Garnish with a little more parsley and the rocket, before drizzling over the dressing. Then, pretend it’s sunny, and enjoy!
My impatience paid off, in that the warm couscous absorbed and retained well the flavour of the lemony dressing. The chickpeas, not a component of tabouleh but still perfectly welcome, gave the otherwise soft salad more bite. I very much enjoyed this little lunch, and will look forward to making it again when the sun makes an appearance next summer.