Spelt tabbouleh with red currants and chervil – my take on the traditional Levantine salad!
I serve this spelt salad with Finnish leipäjuusto (bread cheese) which I pan fry golden with some local honey. The hot and sweet squeaky cheese + the herbaceous salad with tart cold berries is a killer good combo!
Tabbouleh is a Levantine classic, known to likely everyone who ever sat at a mezze table. The combination of juicy tomatoes, sharp onions and a mountain of parsley and mint is truly a wonderful thing! Tabbouleh is definitely one of my all time favorite salads ♥ I was lucky enough to be introduced to this salad in my University years by a fellow student, who grew up eating tabbouleh. Unless I’d had his version, I don’t think I would’ve known the correct ratio of herbs to bulgur a tabbouleh should have!
I’ve been making tabbouleh much like his up until recently, when I ended up developing a version using 99% Finnish ingredients. See, I was commissioned to develop a recipe out of produce marked with the “Produced in Finland” label, which I published on my Instagram as an ad for the label last week. The label is used by food industry companies operating in Finland that manufacture their products here using Finnish ingredients. A sign of a product that’s as Finnish as it can be! For this client work, I went shopping at my local grocery store to see what kind of recipe I could come up with produce marked with this label.
As I was going through my options, I ended up buying local and organic pearl spelt for the first time. I fell in love with the product instantly, and decided to create the recipe using this lovely ingredient! In a traditional tabbouleh the amount of bulgur wheat isn’t a lot in comparison to all the herbs and veg. But because I love the taste of spelt so much, my version ended up being on the “grainier” side 🙂
I use spelt flour all the time in my sourdough baking, but I’d never used spelt as a grain before. The pearl spelt I’ve now discovered cooks up in 20 minutes, and is incredibly flavorful! This ancient grain has a nutty taste I adore. It’s a good source of protein and fiber and I recently discovered it’s apparently also easier to digest than regular wheat! (You can read more about spelt here.) Spelt has been cultivated in Finland for ages so it’s a local ingredient for me. What’s not to love? Spelt has been my grain of choice lately, over rice in particular. It makes for a lovely base to my vegan watermelon poke bowl for instance!
Tabbouleh made with local ingredients
For my 99% Finnish tabbouleh, I picked up local tomatoes, herbs, bread cheese, organic pearl spelt, canola oil, frozen red currants and honey. I also found local green onions and small Finnish cucumbers called avomaan kurkku! This cucumber variety is grown on open fields and has a bumpy and bitter peel. Size wise it’s similar to Persian cucumbers, just a bit smaller. These cucumbers are a sign of summer for me and I love them to bits! I haven’t found a name for them in English, but they are the kind that is usually pickled whole here in Finland.
Although the recipe was developed with a certain goal in mind, you don’t need to stick to these exact ingredients of course. The whole idea is to make something with local ingredients, so I hope you use ingredients that are local to you! Pick an oil produced in your region, a berry that grows in your backyard and a grain of your country! If nobody is growing spelt where you live, try buckwheat or oat groats, pearl barley, farro, quinoa, amaranth, couscous… Or simply go for the traditional bulgur.
At our house the spelt tabbouleh was served with leipäjuusto, a Finnish squeaky cheese which I pan fry with some honey. You could totally serve the salad also with cheese curds, paneer or tofu for a vegan version. Or something on the other end of the cheese spectrum, like halloumi perhaps?
Spelt tabbouleh with red currants and chervil
- 2 dl pearl spelt
- 1 bunch fresh chervil (or mint and/or tarragon)
- 1-2 bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 green onion
- 1-2 small cucumbers (depending on their size)
- 3 large ripe tomatoes
- 1 dl red currants
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- canola oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
- 200 g Finnish bread cheese (or paneer, cheese curds, halloumi, tofu)
- 1-2 tsp honey (or agave syrup)
Instead of red currants you can try white currants, lingonberries or sea buckthorn! Adjust the amount of berries according to your preferred tartness. If you want something a little less tart go for bilberries or blueberries! I like to use frozen berries in this salad - the combination of the hot sweet cheese and the cold tart berries is wonderful! As the berries defrost in the salad, their juices season the grains. I love fresh chervil, but you can definitely also mix in fresh mint or even some tarragon!
- Cook the pearl spelt according to the instructions of the package. Season to taste with salt and black pepper + a generous drizzle of canola oil. Leave to cool.
- Peel and dice the cucumbers. Chop up also the tomatoes and finely dice the green onion.
- Chop up the fresh flat leaf parsley and chervil (and/or mint/tarragon). I use also the tender stems of parsley and chervil and I chop the bunches of herbs with scissors straight to the mixing bowl.
- Once the pearl spelt has cooled down to room temperature, mix in the veggies, (frozen) berries and herbs. Mix well and taste, add more oil, salt and pepper if necessary.
- Portion the spelt tabbouleh to two bowls.
- Cut the bread cheese to pieces (I like to do little triangles) and pan fry until golden on both sides. Drizzle the pieces with some honey at the end and turn the pieces to coat them evenly. Season with a sprinkle of salt and serve the hot cheese with the spelt tabbouleh immediately!