Eat, Fast and Live Longer. 5-2 Fast Diet Meal Idea Under 200 Calories. A Classic Middle Eastern Salad. Tabbouleh Lettuce Cups.

There is nothing nicer than a crisp, refreshing tabbouleh on a hot summer’s day. A classic Middle Eastern  salad. The perfect side dish to accompany grilled chicken, seafood or steak. Or simply spooned into lettuce cups. Perfect finger food.

Tabbouleh is in essence a parsley salad dressed with finely diced  vegetables and just a little burghul. The secret to a great tabbouleh lies in the knife skills. Use a very sharp knife to shave the herbs as finely as possible without bruising the leaves. Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, celery and spring onions into a uniform, fine dice. Labour intensive? Perhaps. But strangely quite therapeutic, providing a much crisper texture than merely pulsing in the food processor.

Another prepare ahead 5-2 fast diet meal idea that requires no cooking, just a great deal of chopping and a little assembly. Vibrant and refreshing with lots of crunch and flavour for just 116 calories per serve. Try it Middle Eastern style wrapped in lettuce. For a more substantial meal pair with a little lean protein. Either way it is delicious, incredibly healthy and surprisingly filling.

Tabbouleh Lettuce Cups
Serves 6 (116 calories per 3/4 cup serve plus an extra 1 calorie per lettuce cup)

2  large bunches (about 2 cups) fresh, soft flat-leaf parsley (44 calories)
1/2 small bunch (about 1/2 cup) mint leaves (11 calories)
fresh juice of 2 lemons (24 calories)
2 tablespoons burghul (cracked bulgur wheat) (72 calories)
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes (105 calories)
1 lebanese cucumber (45 calories)
2 medium stalks celery (12 calories)
4 spring onions (16 calories)
1 teaspoon baharat spice (Lebanese 7 spice mix) (7 calories)
3 tablespoons olive oil (360 calories)

12 medium soft lettuce leaves, washed, separated and trimmed to size (12 calories)

JUICE  the lemons and pour over the burghul. Set aside to soften for at least 15 minutes while you dice and shred the remaining salad ingredients, using a very sharp knife.
FINELY DICE the tomatoes first and place them into a colander to drain. This results in a a crisper salad. Then finely dice the cucumber, celery and spring onions.
GATHER the parsley and mint leaves together in a tight wad and finely shred the leaves with a very sharp knife, in a shaving action.
COMBINE the shredded herbs, softened burghul and lemon juice with the finely diced tomato, cucumber, celery and spring onion in a large bowl.
SPRINKLE over the Baharat spice mix, add olive oil and mix the salad with your hands. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
COVER and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Just before serving toss gently.
SERVE spooned into soft lettuce cups.

Baharat Spice Mix
From Jerusalem by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi

It is very easy to make your own spice mix with the aid of a small food processor but it is readily available from good delicatessens and providores.Herbies Spices in Rozelle, make an excellent Baharat Spice Mix. Also available online at

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken
½ teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
½ whole nutmeg, grated

PLACE all of the spices in a spice grinder or bowl of a small food processor. Grind until a fine powder is achieved.  Leftover spice blend can be stored in an airtight container for up to 8 weeks.

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