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.
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.
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, 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