A Middle Eastern-inspired menu is the perfect platform for showcasing wholefoods – from super grains and kefir to nuts and berries – redressed with colour and flair.
Persian black-lentil soup with kefir ‘cream’ and fried mint (Above)
This is a heavenly winter’s night soup – try not to omit the kefir cream or the deep-fried mint as it’s the layers of flavours that make this dish special. Kefir is a powerful natural probiotic and a cinch to make (see below). Black lentils are available to order at faithfultonature.co.za, but you can sub brown or green lentils.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2t cumin seeds
2t coriander seeds
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2T harissa paste, plus extra for serving
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup black lentils, rinsed
4 cups good-quality vegetable stock (we like Nomu)
2 cups water
1t salt, more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh kale, ribs removed
juice of 1/2 to 1 medium lemon, to taste
20 to 25 mint leaves
oil, for deep-frying (sunflower or coconut oil)
flat bread, for serving
For the kefir ‘cream’
zest of 1 lemon
To make the kefir ‘cream’
Place feta and kefir in a blender and puree to a thickened ‘cream’. Stir in the lemon zest. Keep, covered, in a glass jar in the fridge. Keeps for 4 days.
To make the soup
1. Sauté the onion, celery and carrots in the oil (1/4 cup may sound like a lot, but it adds a lovely richness) for about 5 minutes or until the onion has softened but not browned.
2. Using a pestle and mortar, crush the seeds, then add to the pot along with the garlic and harissa paste. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes then pour in the lentils, stock and water. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until the lentils have softened. Season generously.
3. Transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender or puree with a hand blender, then pour the pureed soup back into the pot and add the chopped kale. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until the greens have softened.
4. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the juice of half a lemon. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice.
5. Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan and quickly deep-fry the mint leaves until emerald green (don’t let them turn brown – it takes just a few seconds.) Serve immediately with the kefir cream, fried mint leaves, flat bread and extra harissa.
Maple-roast rainbow carrots with toasted caraway and tahini
500g rainbow carrots
2T olive oil
1T maple syrup
1T toasted caraway seeds
For the tahini ‘sauce’
50g tahini paste
1 small garlic clove, grated or crushed
1/2t maple syrup
1T lemon juice
lukewarm water to loosen, optional
To make the carrots
Melt together the butter with the oil and maple syrup. Place the carrots in a roasting tray and pour over the maple mix. Season and roast in a preheated oven at 190˚C for 25 to 30 minutes.
For the tahini ‘sauce’
Whisk together all the ingredients. You want a fairly runny paste but not too watery. You should be able to drizzle the sauce over the carrots. Top with toasted caraway seeds and serve with the roasted rainbow carrots.
Recipes Bernadette Le Roux Production Juliette Arrighi de Casanova Photographs Micky Hoyle