Quinoa Tabouleh

The Lebanese salad dish "tabouleh" is made from bulgar wheat, a cereal product from the Middle East and North Africa. But a similar and equally excellent result can be obtained using an alternative carbohydrate such as couscous or, in this case, quinoa. This originates from the South American Andes and is not strictly a cereal (grass seed), but the seed of a variety of goosefoot plant. Quinoa tabouleh has the added advantage that it is gluten free. It needs to be prepared with care, as quinoa is not the easiest product to cook perfectly and the final dish also depends on a delicate balance of flavours. But if you get it right, the result is fantastic.

Ingredients (4 portions)

150g quinoa
8 cherry tomatoes
2 small shallots
3 spring onions
1/2 medium red bell pepper
1/3 medium cucumber
juice from 1 lemon
1 chilli*
fresh coriander
olive oil**
black pepper

* Use chilli to taste. I used one Scotch Bonnet.
** I used basil-infused olive oil


This is the quinoa in its raw state. You may need to rinse it thoroughly before boiling. This depends on whether or not your quinoa has been pre-soaked.
When ready, the first stage of making the tabouleh is to cook the quinoa. This will need time to cool while you prep the additional ingredients. Boil as per the packet instructions. You'll know when it's cooked because the white germ will have separated from the grain.

Meanwhile you can start prepping the vegetables.

A wonderfully colourful array of reds and greens.
Remove the pith and seeds from the pepper and cut into julienne. Then cut the strips finely on the slant to make diamond shapes.

This is often called a paysanne.

Wash the cherry tomatoes thoroughly and cut into quarters or whatever size you desire.
Peel and finely chop the shallots into brunoise. Slice the spring onions finely on the slant and cut the cucumber into a rough dice. Cut the lemon in half and shred the coriander roughly - we chefs refer to this cut as a chiffonade.

Always leave the chilli until last when prepping multiple items, especially when using one board for everything. Remove the pith and seeds, cut into strips and finely dice them. Wash your hands immediately and very thoroughly.

When the cooked quinoa is cool enough, combine with the vegetables and coriander and then add the juice from the lemon and the oil.

If you like, you could make a vinaigrette with the oil and some vinegar before adding to the quinoa. Season well.
Serve by itself as a salad, or perhaps with some fried fish such as sardines as shown here.

Avoid fish or meat with strong flavours as the tabouleh is delicately flavoured. The rest is up to you...