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Taboulé à la Française

Our mini summer vacation at Pierre's grandparent's house up in Brittany was great - love the big old house and the vast green for our little ninja to run about and explore on her own, not forgetting the trips to the seaside: she loves running after the waves and refused to return home even though she was turning blue from cold. She also had a great time playing ball with her 96 year old great grandmother and was up to non-stop mischiefs around the house - climbing on the chairs and the stairs (I had a little heart-attack-moment when I found her half way up the stairs to the 1st level looking for her grandmother). Little ninja enjoyed herself thoroughly, can't say the same for her parents. We were suffering terribly from IWS (Internet Withdrawal Syndrome). As much as we were enjoying ourselves with the slow and tranquil pace of life in Brittany, I don't know if we could have survived 1 more week of surfing via a telephone line. Gosh! It's great to be back in civilization - first thing I did when I got back (after unpacking all the stuff of course) is kiss my ADSL modem. Man, I miss it so much. All I need is just switch on my PC and all the pages flow so fast, pulled out of thin air through the magic of Wifi.

Now, back to the kitchen... today I'm going to introduce a wonderful appetizer called Taboulé - a North African appetizer that consists of herbs mixed together with tomatoes, cucumber and couscous. The original recipe is made up mainly of parsley and mint and Bulgur instead of couscous, however the dish has become popular in France in a slightly modified form.

My very first taste of taboulé was at Michèle's house. It was very sunny that day - a perfect day for BBQ (that's what we had) and we were all withering under the summer heat till Michèle brought out this lovely and cold delicious looking bowl full of fresh veggies and some sort of wheat in it. I was rather intrigued by it. At first mouthful, I fell totally in love with this dish.

Taboulé à la Française
  • 500 g couscous grains, semolina (medium or fine)
  • 1 big cucumber (peeled, cored and diced in small pieces)
  • 4 or 5 big tomatoes (skinned, seeded and diced in small pieces)
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 1/2 lemons
  • 3 big sweet onions
  • a bunch of parsley and mint leaves
  • a few black or green olives (chopped, optional)
  • a dash or two of Tabasco sauce or cayenne chili powder (optional)
  • salt & pepper
Taboulé ingredients
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the olive oil and lemon juice with the couscous. Set aside.
  2. Make a cross (X) on the bottom of the tomatoes. Bring a pot of water to a boil, drop the tomatoes into the pot and count to 10. Scoop it out with a slotted spoon and plunge them in ice cold water for a second or two. Take them out and peel the skin off using a sharp knife or your fingers. Remove the seeds and cut the tomatoes into small cubes. Put all of them in the couscous mixture.
  3. Peel the cucumber, remove the core and cut it into small cubes. Mix them together with the tomatoes and the coucous.
  4. In a mixer, pulse a bunch of parsley, mint leaves and sweet onions. Add this chopped herb mixture into the taboulé.
  5. Mix in the chopped olives and season it with salt and pepper, a dash or two Tabasco sauce or cayenne chili powder.
  6. Cover it with a plastic film and refrigerated it for at least 6 hours.
  7. Check the taboulé. The couscous should taste soft and moist. If it is a bit dry, add a bit of water and adjust the seasoning if needed. Repeat the adding of water till the couscous is soft to taste.
  8. Serve it cold as appetizer.

It's a very refreshing appetizer with a minty-parsley-lemony aroma, the crunchiness (and coolness) of cucumber and the lovely flavour of tomatoes all mixed into one. I like how all the herbs and vegetables complement each other so lovely together. The dash of Tabasco gives it a very light kick. It's great dish for summer.


What I like best about this dish is :

  • I can make a big bowl of it and keep it in the fridge for a few days. (A great dish to have for those days when I just prefer a light lunch or dinner - a good alternative to having salad).
  • You can adjust the mixture of taboulé to your preference - more parsley or minty taste; add more or less cucumber or tomatoes to your liking, more lemon juice or less etc.
  • You can never go wrong with it because you can always add water bit by bit to it if the taboulé is a bit dry.
#1, by Cynthia (08/19/2007)

I love couscous and will definitely try this.

#2, by ashley (08/19/2007)

Welcome back! The taboule looks great. I should try making it some time.:-)

#3, by eastmeetswestkitchen (08/19/2007)

Oh I love taboulé, especially in summertime. Yours look lovely and yummy! And welcome back!:-)

#4, by Orchdiea (08/19/2007)

I love couscous... this dish is very nice. I make something similar too.

#5, by Kevin (08/19/2007)

This sounds really tasty. The use of mint and lemon sounds nice.

#6, by Lynn (08/19/2007)

Glad your daughter had such a nice vacation and that you're happily reunited with your internet connection. Your tabouleh looks delicious. I'd never thought to make it with couscous. My husband really likes couscous, so I'll have to give this a try. Thanks!

#7, by Jackson Kah (08/19/2007)

wow...this food is totally new to me. Thx for sharing this

#8, by Kelly Mahoney (08/19/2007)

What a take on taboule! I first fell in love with it when I was in Egypt, but I thought it was a Greek dish. I learn something new every day:-)

#9 (08/19/2007)

It's been at every French picnic I've been to - and I love it. But then I like couscous in any form, and, I'm afraid, I use it in very non-traditional ways... oh well... I'm l'Americaine...what do I know;-)

#10, by Judy (08/19/2007)

Oooh, I love taboule. No one calls it taboule here in UK but in Australia, this dish is called taboule.:-)

#11, by The Cooking Ninja (08/20/2007)

@Cynthia: U'll love it.:-)

@Ashley: Thanks.

@eastmeetswestkitchen: Oh, I'm so glad to be back with a ADSL line.:-) Lots of posts to catch up and reply.

@Orchdiea: I got to check yours out.:-)

@Kevin: oh yes, I was quite surprised by the flavour and the taste.

@lynn: I feel so sorry for her to be back in our home. She loves the countryside air and the seaside.

@Jackson: No problem. It's great to share.

@Kelly: Don't we all:-) If I have never come to France, I wouldn't have known Taboulé.

@Anonymous: Oh we use couscous in very non traditional ways too.:-)

@Judy: hehehe...If I had it in S'pore, I wouldn't know what it is called.:-)

#12, by Tartelette (08/20/2007)

I thought my American friends were nuts when I saw then dump couscous into hot water. I had never see that until I moved to the US. My husband thought I was crazy when I fixed it for him the first time the way my parents had been taught, like you and Michelle. Tons of mint, olive oil and lemon juice. It rocks!

#13, by The Cooking Ninja (08/20/2007)

@Tartelette: Oh yes, it taste better too.:-) I know many cook their couscous the way you said it too. I have a friend who makes very delicious couscous with veggies and meat.

#14, by Khunying (08/21/2007)

Thank you for stopping by my site. I love couscous. Your recipe looks soooo good. I will make this. Thanks!

#15, by ming the merciless (08/21/2007)

I love, love, love taboule! I usually go to the Middle Eastern restaurant to get some taboule but they have a lot of parsley in it. I do like it with parsley too but I think it would be easier to eat without it.

#16, by The Cooking Ninja (08/23/2007)

@Khunying: Hope you will love it.:-)

@Ming the merciless: hehehe...my MIL loves parsley so she tends to put her taboulé with lots of it whereas my significant other and I, we aren't a big fan of parsley so we tend to put less of it in our taboulé.:-)

#17, by Chris (08/27/2007)

This looks a lot like the tabbouleh you often see in non-middle-eastern restaurants here in the States. My wife's family is Armenian and here's how we make it:
...TONS of parsley.;-)
We recently tried a tabbouleh made with quinoa which was also quite good!

#18, by johanna (08/31/2007)

aah! brings back good memories. believe it or not, when i first stayed in france, my family couldn't actually cook very much, but the madame made a wonderful taboule! it has becomea firm favourite here for summer picnics and light lunches - mmmh!

#19, by Coffee & Vanilla (03/22/2009)

Mint! What a great idea!:-)
And I have to try your way....

#20, by Zjielle (05/02/2009)

Try adding chick peas

#21, by retrogaming (09/01/2009)

Yeah, chickpeas are definitely missing here. In my mom's recipe, we don't use onions or any of the options or pepper. The combination olive oil, mint and lemon juice is enough in itself and gives the dish its unique flavour.

#22, by TBR (02/06/2010)

Does one cook the couscous first?

#23, by The Cooking Ninja (02/07/2010)

@TBR: No, you don't need to cook the coucous first. In this recipe, the couscous will be cooked by slowly absorbing the lemon juice, juice from tomato and cucumber over the time. If it's still a bit too dry after 6 hours in the refrigerator, add a bit of water and mix it well.

#24, by mir (08/01/2010)

Originally Taboulé is from Lebanon, NOT North Africa. However, the french version must be inspired by north african food.
(check: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabbouleh)

#25, by mir (08/01/2010)

In fact, I'm from Lebanon living in Paris and discovered the French taboulé here. I was shocked at first, but then I figured it must be the couscous influence and found it really great to have as a side dish with chicken for example:-)
Anyway, I simply wished to clarify the fact, considering that indeed not many people really know its origin. In any case, thanks for the recipe, I will use it for my first French Tabboulé!

#26, by stig (03/25/2012)

i loved it what a great idea