2
Apr

I hear the weather is rather sad in Europe. Cold and wet in Paris, the same in London and just as cold in Milan. I can’t say that I am loving Dubai but at least it is summer here, with a lot of fresh produce and herbs piled in the markets including purslane (baqleh in Arabic), one of my favourite herbs.

purslane-2-copy

Despite the trend towards global ingredients, purslane remains little known in the west. Perhaps because it is fragile. The leaves bruise easily and you need to be careful handling it. I don’t normally wash it. Instead, I just wipe off any earth delicately with kitchen paper. And I have to admit that I very rarely buy it in London looking as fresh as it does in the pictures above and below. And I certainly cannot pick up as much of it as I want and just stuff it in a bag, as in the display here. Middle Eastern shops have the herb neatly bunched up and I often have to discard part of the bunch because the stalks are too tightly packed resulting in some of the leaves ending up spoiled.

purslane copy

Anyhow, purslane deserves to be better known, not only because it has a particular, rather earthy taste and a silky yet firm texture but also because it is very healthy. As for meqteh, which I often use with purslane, it is a seasonal pale, ridged cucumber with a slightly furry skin. It is drier and crunchier than the small Middle eastern cucumbers and is less common. So, if you are in Europe and feel like a taste of summer, get yourself to a Middle Eastern shop to see if you can find some purslane. And if you are in the Middle East, enjoy the seasonal abundance.

purslane salad copy 2

©vanessa courtier

Purslane, Tomato and ‘Armenian’ Cucumber Salad (Salatet Baqleh ma Banadurah wa Meqteh)

You can vary on the taste of the lemon dressing by using sumac instead, about 1 tablespoon for the quantities given below. Serves 4

200 g meqteh, thinly sliced

100 g spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

200 g tomatoes, quartered and deseeded

500 g purslane on the stalk, leaves only

juice of ½ lemon, or to taste

sea salt to taste

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Put the meqteh, spring onions and tomatoes in a salad bowl. Add the purslane. Add the lemon juice, salt to taste and the olive oil. Toss lightly together. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately.

©anissa helou, from Modern Mezze


There is 18 comments on this post


  • I sighed when I saw the word meqteh, but smiled when I realized it was the same cucumber I buy at the Armenian grocer a few blocks from my home. In Pasadena as in Dubai.

    Purslane is insanely popular in central Mexico, btw, where it is generally stewed with pork – it becomes not unlike molokhia when you cook it. The Spanish name for purslane is verdolagas.


  • thanks jonathan. amusing about the meqteh. i didn’t know about the mexican taste for purslane. must go there. have not been yet. i should have also said that purslane is used in fatayer, the same way as spinach or swiss chard. and now they use fresh thyme too. all very delicious. perhaps i should try and find myself some good fatayer tomorrow.


  • Purslane is a kind of botanical mystery. Its region of origin seems to be that part of the world we call Eurasia, which covers Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Syria, Lebanon, all countries where it is eaten in a salad like the one above. But it seems to have made its way on its own millenia ago, perhaps after the last Ice Age, down the American continent. Its traces have been found in archaeological sites in Northern America. It is certainly widely beloved in virtually every part of central Mexico where, as in the Old World, it is appreciated for its sharp sourness (which works wonderfully balanced with green chiles). It is quite widely available today in major US cities. At our large multi-ethnic groceries, I have seen them in shopping carts of Mexicans, Greeks, folks from the Balkans, etc It’s not exactly “mainstream” yet, but it is definitely not unknown in this part of the world.

    (Will try to make above salad this weekend0. Thanks!)
    Richard
    Chicago


  • hope you enjoy it. it’s funny. i haven’t seen purslane sold in supermarkets yet, neither wholefoods nor waitrose in england but there is a huge waitrose in dubai and they should have purslane. will check when i am next there.


  • I pick purslane sometimes around the park in Venice where it grows…. (enough for one or two servings!!!) and make a fattoush! but have not found meqteh yet….


  • what fun. must be wonderful freshly picked, i love it in fattoush. as for meqteh. you can find it easily in the armenian and persian stores. see jonathan’s comment above. haven’t seen it yet at wholefoods but haven’t been for a while.


  • Purslane is also eaten in Szechuan where it is called ma chi xian (“horse teeth amaranth”). A lovely book on Szechuanese food by Shi Guang Hua has a beautiful watercolor illustration of the herb with the ff caption: ma chi xian is a variety of wild herb (ye cao) that proliferates madly (feng zhang) throughout the world (man shi jie feng zhang de ye cao); it is enjoyed (lit: well-suited) as one of the “cold dishes” (liang cai) in the Szechuanese’s everyday repertory (chuan ren de jia chang liang cai).

    In a chapter on “the world of liang cai” (liang cai = lit. cold dishes, but implies far more than “food served at room temperature” to include “summer fare”, “cooling dishes” in medical sense, “snack-like food for nibbling”, “food to enjoy with alcohol” etc), he gives a recipe for “hot-and-sour purslane” (suan la ma chi xian). Basically: clean off the “lao gen” or roots (as in Anissa’s instructions above). Blanch the herbs (the word is “cuan”, implying “a quick boil”). Then dress with salt, vinegar, garlic (suan ni), chile oil, soy sauce and sesame oil.

    Richard
    Chicago


  • Anissa: Purslane is one of the many things we grow for Manresa. And when people come to the garden and see it growing, they always think it’s a weed. That is, except for Central and South Americans, who instantly recognize it as the wonderful green it is. I didn’t know it was a fav of Middle Easterners, too! Fabulous!


  • yum. must try it this way.


  • yes, it is. and in north africa. i have a recipe in my moroccan street food book for a herb mash sauteed in olive oil where i use purslane instead of mallow (baqûla is the name of the dish and mallow in moroccan arabic). do you pick the purslane when the leaf is still v small? i must have missed the season as i haven’t yet had it at manresa.


  • *adore* your book modern mezze. gorgeous photos, as always. x shayma


  • thanks shayma. you’re so sweet. went to bodour’s restaurant the other day and it was great. best fresh thyme salad ever. x


  • I live in Aqaba, Jordan and I saw this being sold right outside the bakery along with roka and radishes. At first I didn’t know what it was though it looked familiar and just bought it to try it. I went to this blog for something else and saw this and remembered. I can get those cucumbers here but cherry tomatoes are not usual here for some reason. The regular ones are good, however.


  • i am sure the regular ones are good with all the sun you have. enjoy.


  • Hello Anissa,

    I found your Blog in the www because I’m interested in everything about extra virgin olive oil . Your Blog is well done and nice to read. I am from Greece and now living in Germany.

    Greetings from Alexandra


  • so glad to hear you like it. lots of great extra virgin olive oil in syria and lebanon. haven’t yet explored the turkish side properly.


  • Thanks for finally putting a name to that herb I have been wondering about in all the herb sections of the big supermarkets in Dubai. There are so many fresh herbs in this part of the world and even with my Iranian heritage, had no clue what purslane was and what it was used for. Thank you!


  • you’re welcome ana 🙂

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