Monk’s salad, or saltat al rahib is a salad that will tick all the cravings you have. It’s a mix of cooked and raw, perfect for when you want a salad that’s more substantial than usual.
What is Monk’s Salad?
And who’s the monk, you might add. Well that answer, my friend, will forever be shrouded in mystery.
Monk’s salad or in Arabic, Saltat al Rahib (سلطه الراهب), is a salad of charred smoky aubergines (eggplants), with a few fresh ingredients like tomatoes, capsicums (peppers) and herbs, all tossed in a tangy, garlicky dressing.
It makes a wonderful addition to the mezze table or part of a tapa spread. And is perfect for when you’re having a barbecue party.
This salad is said to be Lebanese in origin, attributed to monks who lived a simple life in the Lebanese mountains, presumably with a homegrown garden. Imagine the monks cooking the aubergines over an open fire before combining them with whatever else they had at hand to make up a satisfying lunch with some bread baked in an underground oven!
Monk’s Salad Recipe
It’s a very, very easy recipe to put together. We start off with charring our eggplants, something you will be familiar with if you’ve been a long time LinsFood follower. On this new site alone, we do it for Mutabal and Mirza Ghasemi.
This is what we’ll be doing:
1. Cook the Eggplants
You can do this on the stove, on the barbecue (grill), or just in the oven. Or a combination. I talk you through the methods.
When the eggplant is done cooking, we get the flesh out and chop it up for a rustic, practically mashed affair.
Monk’s salad is made without the eggplant skin, because the base of this salad is a mushy, almost mashed eggplant. If you leave the skin on, you won’t get this, you’ll get cubes or solid pieces of eggplant, which is not in keeping with the spirit of the dish.
The odd piece of skin is fine, in fact, it adds to the smoky flavour and is a good thing.
When I char eggplants for whatever recipe, I always make extra and freeze. That way, I always have some at hand and they are also great for curries, stews and sambals. All these recipes are on my other 2 blogs.
2. Make the Salad Dressing
We mix everything up and set aside for the flavours to develop. Traditionally, this would have been a simple lemon, garlic, salt and oil dressing. But pomegranate molasses is always a lovely addition to salad dressing. More on this below.
3. Chop and Toss
Chop up whatever salad vegetables you are using, and toss everything up in a large bowl. So that will be your eggplants, salad vegetables, herb and salad dressing.
Taste your monk’s salad and adjust seasoning as required.
Aubergines (aka Eggplants)
Apologies but I use these 2 words interchangeably, I don’t even realise I’m doing it most of the time. Like when I speak to my family in Singapore and Malaysia, it never registers that we’re speaking in 2 – 3 different languages in a single conversation, that kind of thing. Even here with my kids, my exclamations (no, not swear words!) are always a mix of English, Malay and Arabic.
Anyway! So what kind of aubergines to use? Any kind you fancy really. There are no hard and fast rules about this, long, round, it makes no difference to the final result. I’ve also used different coloured ones, and it’s always delicious.
I’ve given the amount below as 2 medium eggplants, with a rough weight of 500g – 600g (1.1lb – 1.3 lb). More or less, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have an amount that’s close to what I’ve given.
The Salad Vegetables and Herbs
The most common salad vegetables in saltat al rahib are tomatoes and capsicums (bell peppers). You can use green pepper or red, or a mix of both, as I like doing.
I also like to throw in a small amount of cucumbers for added crunch and freshness.
Spring onions (scallions), a shallot or a small red onion adds that much loved allium flavour to our monk’s salad. Much loved by me, that is.
As far as the herbs are concerned, flat leaf parsley is the most popular choice, with a little mint for added zing. Curly parsley will be perfectly fine too.
The Salad Dressing
This is easy enough. We have:
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh lemon juice
- pomegranate molasses
- salt and black pepper
Mince, pound or finely chop the garlic. Then it’s a simple case of whisking everything up with a fork or small whisk and leaving it aside to drizzle and toss later.
This is a very, very popular ingredient in the Middle East and surrounding region. It is essentially pomegranate juice that’s been cooked and reduced to a thick, syrup like consistency.
The final result is a thick liquid that’s a cross between honey and balsamic vinegar. I have a homemade recipe on LinsFood. Just click here (or the link below) if you want to try making your own pomegranate molasses.
One of the most popular recipes on LinsFood is also this Persian Roast Lamb with Pomegranate Molasses, if you love roast lamb!
How to Serve Saltat al Rahib?
For starters, it’s best when served immediately or within an hour of being made, and at room temperature. Having said that, I’ve kept leftover monk’s salad in the fridge overnight and it was perfect delicious the next day for lunch, eaten cold.
You can serve it as part of a party table, as mentioned above. It’s a great salad for anytime of the year and makes a wonderful starter served with some bread.
It also works as part of a meal, whether that’s Middle Eastern or otherwise.
And there we have it, how to make monk’s salad. Shall we get cooking?
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating! Shukran!
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor.
More Mezze Recipes
Monk’s Salad (Saltat al Rahib)
- 2 forks
- 1 Knife
- 1 Chopping board
- 1 small bowl
- 1 large bowl for serving
- 1 salad fork and spoon or large spoon to toss the salad
The Salad Ingredients
- 2 medium aubergines (eggplants) (about 500g – 600g/1/1 lb – 1.3 lb))
- ½ red bell pepper
- ½ green bell pepper
- 1 medium tomato
- 2 spring onions (scallions)
- 5 cm length of cucumber
- 5 sprigs flat leaf parsley (or curly)
- 6 mint leaves or more if you like them
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 pinch salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Char the Eggplants – Barbecue
- Prep your barbecue. Then push a skewer through your aubergines and barbecue them for about 15 minutes, turning frequently. When done, leave to cool until they can be handled without burning and follow the steps below.If you have a gas barbecue, you might as well do this on the stove or under your grill (broiler), as gas is gas, right?
Char the Eggplants – Indoors
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C (400˚F/ Fan 180˚C) and line a baking sheet with foil.Pierce the aubergines with a metal skewer or fork and place them over your gas flame for about 5 minutes, turning 3 times until the skin is a very dark colour. The skewers are there to help you turn the eggplants. Be careful, don't burn your fingers, especially if using a fork as it'll get hot.
- When done, place on the foil covered baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until they are completely soft, literally melting on the inside. You should be able to push a knife right through. We are going to mash the flesh with a fork, so it needs to be very, very soft.Take them out of the oven and leave to cool so you can handle them.Move on the the other prep work while waiting.
Make Salad Dressing
- Peel and finely mince the garlic and place in a small bowl. You could also pound or finely chop them.
- Add all the other ingredients to the bowl and whisk with a fork or small whisk and set aside. No need to refrigerate.
Chop up the Vegetables and Herbs
- Lose the seeds and membranes and chop up both peppers into little cubes (dice them) and place in a large bowl that will fit all the salad stuff.
- Chop up the tomatoes to roughly the same size and add to the bowl, along with all their juices.
- Slice the spring onions thinly as in the image, and add to the bowl.
- Chop up both herbs and add to the bowl.
- Dice the cucumber and add to the bowl.
Back to the Eggplants and Finish making the Monk's Salad
- When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, we want to scoop out the flesh. You can either peel the skin off or the easier method is to split them lengthwise and scrape the flesh out with a spoon. See image for both examples.
- Using a large knife, roughly chop up the soft eggplant flesh. You are going for an almost mashed finish. But not quite fully mashed like mutabal, so we're chopping instead of using a fork.Add the chopped aubergine to the bowl.
- Pour the prepared salad dressing all over, add salt and some freshly ground black pepper and toss to mix.
- Taste your monk's salad and add more salt and pepper if you need it. Serve immediately.