My HERB HEROES entry – PLEASE VOTE FOR ME

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Over bank holiday weekend I went to visit my parents, armed with a culinary project. I was determined to become a Herb Hero. On first reading, this mightn’t sound quite as cool as Wonder Woman or Superman. But, the lucky Herb Hero, wins £2,500 and get to meet the true hero that is John Torode…so game’s on.

Anyway, to become a Herb Hero, I need to cook up a 4 minute film of me making a dish with at least two fresh herbs in it. This has proved tricky—not because of the herby, cooking part, but because I’m a moron with camcorders.

I have a horrible feeling that I might fall at the first hurdle by being too incompetent to mash together the footage and upload my film by 6 May. (If anyone reading this has ANY advice, please get in touch).

I took some photos of what I made though (I’m considerably better with cameras than camcorders) so, I thought I’d share with you, dear readers, my Herb Heroes dish.

I decided to make the herbs the hero of the dish (!) rather than shrouding their flavours with lots of meat or sauce. So, I went for a herb tabbouleh which has clean and fresh flavours that really showcase everything that my mint and marjoram and chives had to offer. I served it with homemade falafel (though shop bought falafel is excellent too) and a mint and yoghurt dip.

STEP1 – THE TABBOULEH
Ingredients (a good-sized, side salad for 4 people)

125g couscous
150 ml boiling water
1 Handful of sultanas
2 big handfuls of fresh marjoram
1 big handful of fresh mint
About 20 chive strands
2 spring onions
Zest and juice of one lemon
One large handful of toasted, skinned and then ground hazelnuts
One yellow pepper (roasted, skinned and copped)
5 large chestnut mushrooms

Before I launch into the recipe, I want to quickly stress that you can add or take away pretty much any ingredient from this tabbouleh (though do keep in the couscous!) As you can see, many of the ingredients are measured out in handfuls, because it’s such a loose guideline of a recipe. Roasted courgette, grated carrots and pecan nuts are just a few examples of other things that would go superbly.

Finally, some eating advice: although I served this with falafel and dip, this is a lovely salad on its own. It’s also a great accompaniment to barbeque buffets because it’s jam-packed full of interesting flavours.Recently I’ve recently eaten it with lamb sausages & rocket, and with coronation chicken & roasted vegetables.

Method
Put the couscous in the bottom of the big bowl that you’ll end up serving it in (I think that a glass bowl is quite nice, because there end up being so many interesting colours and textures in the salad).

Pour 150ml of boiling water over the couscous, and stir it with a fork to make sure that its all been exposed to the water. Put a plate on top the bowl, and leave it so all the hot water gets absorbed, and the trapped steam keeps everything nice and moist.

Next, put the sultanas in a small bowl, and tip some boiling water over them so that they’re all nice and plump and juicy by the time you add them to the tabbouleh. At this point, it’s also a good idea to pop your pepper in the oven to start it roasting.

Gather your herbs together, then pick off the leaves and put them in a mug. Use a pair of scissors to snip them all up – it’s not nice coming across whole leaves in the salad.

If you’re grinding the hazelnuts yourself (as I was) then pop them in the oven for 4 minutes (switch on a timer, because nuts and seeds are one of those things I always seem to forget in the oven!) Peel off their skins, and then grind them into a dust. This is a really good dish for a vegetarian, so it’s good to pop in lots of nuts as a source of protein.

Cut and fry the mushrooms, slice the spring onions and snip the chives. Then zest and juice the lemon, and drain the excess water from the sultanas if they’re looking suitably plump at this point.

By this time, your pepper might be roasted – you’ll know if it’s ready because the skin will blister and peel off easily. Skin the pepper, then slice it into very small chunks.

Now you’ve done all the hard work – it’s just the easy bit of putting everything together. Add everything to the couscous, stir thoroughly and season.

STEP2 – FALAFEL

Ingredients
250 g chick peas
2 heaped teaspoons of Harissa paste
2 heaped teaspoons of ground cumin
2 heaped teaspoons of coriander (finely snipped up)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
2 tablespoons of plain flour

Whizz your chickpeas in a magimix. While you’re doing that, measure out all the other ingredients, then add to the chickpea mixture and whiz thoroughly.


Mould into nice round balls – they should be bigger than a blackberry but smaller than a golf ball…think along the size of a large strawberry.

Heat up a reasonable amount of oil in a frying pan, and fry them for about 7 minutes until they’re warm throughout, and nicely browned on the outside.

STEP3 – MINT YOGHURT

Ingredients
1 lemon
1 large handful of mint
100g Greek or plain yoghurt

Snip up the mint, squeeze the lemon, and combine with the yogurt to make a fresh, light dip.

Now all that’s left to do is plate up – a generous scoop of the tabbouleh with five falafel balls and a dollop of dip.
Fresh, herby deliciousness!

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