Discover the seasons wherever you live and keep home cooking simple, local, joyful and unapologetically personal with Ilse van der Merwe’s Simply Seasonal.
Try some of Ilse’s delectable dishes, with these recipes taken from the book.
with Aïoli and a Soy Dipping Sauce
There are many ways to enjoy this beautiful, indigenous, seasonal Boland water plant. Although I love a traditional bredie, this Asian-inspired tempura recipe wins my vote. Even my 10-year-old daughter couldn’t get enough, and she’s a picky eater!
Serves 6 as a starter/snack
2 egg yolks
30 ml (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
10 ml (2 teaspoons) Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper
125 ml (½ cup) canola oil
SOY DIPPING SAUCE
45 ml (3 tablespoons) soy sauce
45 ml (3 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice
15 ml (1 tablespoon) finely grated fresh ginger
2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) sesame oil
1–2 spring onions, finely sliced
500 g fresh waterblommetjies
70 g cake flour
60 g (1/4 cup) cornflour
salt and pepper, to taste
about 180 ml (3/4 cup) soda water
canola oil, for deep frying
For the aÏoli, blend the yolks, lemon juice, mustard and garlic in a small blender with an open spout (or tall cup with a stick blender) and season with salt and pepper. Add the oil in a thin stream while blending continuously, until a thick mayonnaise is achieved. Set aside.
For the soy dipping sauce, whisk all the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
For the tempura, rinse the waterblommetjies under running tap water, then bring about 1 cm of water to a simmer in a wide pot. Add the rinsed waterblommetjies, cover with a lid, and steam for 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain off the excess water. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a mixing bowl, mix the cake flour and cornflour, season with salt and pepper, and add the soda water. Mix with a fork or whisk – some lumps should remain.
Heat 4–5 cm of oil in a wide pot to 180°C (most of us don’t have a thermometer for this, so test a few drops of tempura batter to see if it sizzles). Dip each waterblommetjie into the batter to cover all sides, then place carefully into the oil. Fry in batches on both sides until golden (they won’t get very dark because of the cornflour) and fully cooked, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve hot, with the aÏoli and the soy dipping sauce on the side.
NOTE The two dipping sauces are a must, but if you’re only going to make one sauce, make the soy and ginger one. (You can also use store-bought ponzu sauce as is, as a substitute for the soy and ginger dipping sauce.)
Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder
on Herbed Couscous with Mint and Peas
Lamb is a great partner for minted peas and other spring vegetables. This fall-apart shoulder roast is something I’d prepare for a fuss-free dinner party. You can start early with the lamb because it needs quite a few hours in the oven, filling your kitchen with the most delectable smells, and leaving very little effort for the couscous and peas.
about 12 pickling onions, peeled but kept whole
4–6 cloves garlic, peeled but kept whole
about 2 kg whole lamb shoulder
5 ml (1 teaspoon) dried origanum
salt and pepper, to taste
250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
250 ml (1 cup) water
500 ml (2 cups) couscous
500 ml (2 cups) boiling water
a small bunch (20 g) fresh mint, finely chopped (reserve some for topping)
a small bunch (20 g) fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
juice and finely grated rind of a lemon
30–45 ml (2–3 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
250 g (2 cups) fresh or frozen peas
10 ml (2 teaspoons) butter
For the lamb, preheat the oven to 220°C and place the onions and garlic in a large deep roasting tray. Place the lamb shoulder on top, scattering with origanum and seasoning with salt and pepper all over. Add the wine and water to the tray, then cover with a lid (or with foil). Roast for 30 minutes, then turn down the heat to 120°C and roast for another 6–7 hours until very tender and falling from the bone.
About 30 minutes before the lamb is ready, place the couscous and boiling water in a bowl and season with salt. Cover with a lid or a plate and leave to steam for about5 minutes. Fluff up the couscous with a fork, then add the mint and parsley, lemon juice and rind and olive oil. Stir well and add more salt if needed. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.
Briefly cook the peas in boiling water and drain, then stir through the butter and season with salt and pepper. When the lamb is ready and completely fall-apart tender, transfer it with most of the pan juices (if the pan juices are too much, pour into a small jug and serve on the side) to a large serving platter along with the peas, scatter with a few whole mint leaves, and serve with the couscous on the side.
Roasted Pumpkin & Red Onion Pasta
with Feta, Herbs & Almond
This dish is as good served at room temperature as it is served warm. It’s a combo of some of my most loved ingredients, all of them trusty favourites. It can certainly be a vegetarian main course, but also as a side dish as part of a bigger festive spread.
Serves 4 as a main course and 6–8 as a side dish
about 500 g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
3 large red onions, sliced into slim wedges
about 45 ml (3 tablespoons) olive oil, plus extra salt and pepper, to taste
500 g orzo pasta (or rosmarino or risoni)
a small bunch fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
a small bunch fresh mint,
finely chopped (or basil or dill)
2–3 rounds feta cheese, crumbled
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, to taste
60–125 ml (¼ – ½ cup) flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry pan
Preheat the oven to 220°C. On a large baking sheet lined with baking paper, spread out the pumpkin and red onions, drizzle evenly with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes until tender and golden brown.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta for 7 minutes, then drain. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pasta and stir to coat, then transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl, adding the roasted pumpkin and onions. Add the parsley, mint, feta and a squeeze of lemon juice, then season all over with salt and pepper and stir gently to mix well. Top with the toasted almonds and serve warm or at room temperature.
* Orzo pasta is shaped like flat rice discs. Their size and mouthfeel make them perfectly suited to room temperature salads.
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