A nutrient dense salad full of Middle Eastern Promise
I like to eat this salad with hummus and warm flat breads
Balela Salad – It’s a fantastic mix of flavours with the garlic, lemon and mint.
Tinned beans, lentils and chickpeas can often, understandably, lack that life that raw produce does. In this salad the lemon juice and mint injects some freshness and gets those pulses racing again. It’s as simple as mixing everything together and is a fantastic store cupboard meal once you have some fresh herbs and vegetables at hand.
This salad stores really well in the fridge for a couple of days and can be brought to work or school in a sealed container or jar. I often omit the cucumber if I’m planning on dipping into it over the course of a few days. Add the cucumber as you need it. Once this salad begins to wane I throw any leftovers into a curry, soup or pot of chili so none is wasted. Chickpeas play a central role in this salad. It’s based on the Middle Eastern Balela Salad that usually has black beans, chickpeas and often peppers. Yellow or red cubed pepper adds even more colour and nutrients. It’s a fantastic mix of flavours with the garlic, lemon and mint.
I sometimes add some crumbled feta or fried halloumi to each serving. Slices of buttery avocado is delicious gently mixed in too. It’s very filling as it is though and packed full of fibre and protein as well as so many vitamins from the raw vegetables and herbs. I like to eat this salad with hummus and warm flat breads.
I recently came across The Alsham Bakery in Cork through an RTÉ News feature by Philip Bromwell. He spoke to Syrian refugee Mohamed Ghnaimi who arrived here in Ireland in 2015. He has now established The Alsham Bakery in Cork, baking beautiful Syrian flatbreads with Odlums flour.
These breads are a central part of Syrian food culture and are often eaten three times a day, with every meal. Since that piece aired in mid January The Alsham Bakery Flatbreads have been in high demand. The Rocketman in Cork now uses them as wraps, and they are being stocked in Halal shops and some supermarkets. I picked up two packets of six in The Alternative Bread Company stall in Cork’s English Market. They’re light and deliciously chewy, perfect for dipping, wrapping and folding. It’s the exact bread I’ve been looking for to make authentic Palestinian Musakhan. Hopefully there will be many more stories like Mohamed Ghnaimi’s in the not too distant future.
Lately I love frying herbs in oil to release their own oils and flavour. I’ve fried a little mint and parsley here then crumbled it over the hummus. Sizzled herbs add a gorgeous texture and flavour. Sumac is traditionally used in this salad but Za’atar will work too. Sumac is a tart red berry that is ground into a coarse powder. It gives tartness and lemon like sourness. Za’atar is a spice blend of sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. Both will give delicious results here and can be found in Middle Eastern shops and some larger supermarkets.
2 x 380g tins cooked chickpeas (460g total drained weight)
1 tin cooked kidney beans or black beans
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tbs olive oil
6 cherry tomatoes, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbs mint, finely chopped
Small bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp sumac or 2tsp Za’atar
Hummus, Warm flatbreads
1. Place the drained chickpeas and beans in large bowl. Add the lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.
2. Halve the cucumber horizontally and scoop out the seeds. Dice the remaining cucumber. Add to the bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Gently mix. Add sea salt to taste.
3. Serve with hummus and warm flatbreads.