Moroccan butternut and chickpea soup

I dreamt up this soup on a miserable rainy day a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s the first thing I crave when the weather turns horrible. It’s a really filling, warming soup, spiked with Moroccan spices and chilli. It’s really good with salty feta crumbled on top and served with toasted, buttered rye bread.

moroccan soup

Serves 4

  • 1 kg of peeled, chopped butternut
  • 1 onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of harissa pasta
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed ginger
  • Half a cup of red split lentils, rinsed well
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1 tin of chopped, peeled tomotoes
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped roughly
  • Tumeric
  • Cumin seeds
  • Cinnamon
  • Chilli flakes
  • Fresh coriander leaves and some feta, to serve
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder

Fry the onion in a bit of oil until it starts to soften. Add the harissa paste, garlic, ginger and a sprinkle of tumeric, cinnamon and cumin seeds. Fry until the spices become fragrant. Add the carrots, butternut and the tin of tomatoes. Fill up the empty tin with water and add that too, along with the stock powder. Turn the heat up to high. Let the soup boil for about 10 minutes, and then add the lentils. Keep it on a high heat, and stir occasionally. Once the butternut starts getting mushy, squish it and stir into the soup. The soup is ready when the butternut has melted into the liquid. Add the chickpeas and a pinch of chilli flakes if you like. Serve the soup with crumbled feta and coriander leaves.

Roasted butternut, guava, feta and avocado winter salad

Wednesday was a scorcher in Cape Town. The thermometer on my car read 30 degrees and I saw people dressed in bikinis heading for the beach. The beach – in June! In celebration of the sunshine and warmth I made a suitably cheery salad for lunch. Guavas have just come into season, and my other winter favourite, avocado, is so plentiful at the moment. Combined with sweet roast butternut, feta, rocket and basil from my flourishing herb garden they make such a flavourful, interesting salad.

Butternut, guava, avocado and feta salad

Serves one

  • 2 guavas, cut into eighths
  • 500 g roasted butternut (I roasted mine in a 190 C oven for about 40 minutes with a sprinkling of chilli flakes)
  • A handful of rocket
  • A small handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Half a wheel of feta
  • 150 g of rosa tomatoes, sliced
  • A handful of mixed sprouts
  • Half an avocado, sliced

It’s pretty easy to assemble – leaves on the bottom, and everything piled on top. I think it’s nicer if you let the butternut cool down a bit, so it’s not too hot. Crumble the feta on top and dress with something sharp – lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.

Moroccan lentil and butternut pie

I’ve had a craving for Moroccan-spiced food recently. It probably has something to do with this wintry weather in Cape Town. Moroccan spices are deliciously warming and fragrant – perfect for autumnal suppers. I made up this pie recipe on the hop, and (if I do say so myself) it’s rather good. I served it with crispy sweet potato wedges sprinkled with chilli flakes.

moroccan lentil and butternut pie

Serves 8

500g peeled butternut, cut into small cubes
400g courgettes, grated
100g spinach
2 tins of brown lentils, rinsed and drained
2 free-range eggs
200g feta, crumbled
2 T toasted pine nuts
2 T slivered almonds
2 T each of chopped flat-leaf parsley and coriander
20 raisins
1 onion, finely chopped
2 dried apricots, finely chopped
2 heaped tsp harissa paste
1 tsp crushed garlic
Whole cumin seeds, paprika and whole coriander seeds
1 tsp honey
250g filo pastry
Melted butter

Heat the oven to 180 C. Put the butternut in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin seeds and paprika. Roast until the butternut is cooked, about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, put the grated courgette into a colander and sprinkle with some salt. Leave over the sink for about 20 minutes and then squeeze to drain the excess water.

Fry the onion in some olive oil until it starts to soften and then add the harissa paste, garlic and a pinch each of cumin and coriander seeds. If you like heat, add a good pinch of dried chilli flakes. Fry for a minute or two and then add the courgette. Fry until the courgette is softened, and then add the lentils. Turn up the heat at this point to burn off all the water. Cook the lentils for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach until it’s wilted.

Combine the eggs, honey, apricots, raisins, feta, almonds, pine nuts and herbs and mix together with the lentils.

Brush a bit of melted butter on the bottom of a large casserole dish and lay down a sheet of filo pastry. Brush a bit of melted butter on top of the sheet and put another one on top. Repeat until you have four sheets on top of each other. Pour in the butternut cubes and spread across the base of the pie. On top of this pour in the lentil mixture and spread evenly. Now comes the fun part – scrunch up sheets of filo and cover up the top of the pie to make the ‘crust’. Brush the sheets with melted butter. Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Pearl barley salad with green beans, roasted butternut and feta

This is a great spring salad with lovely flavour combinations. Sweet butternut and salty feta make an obviously good team, and go well with green beans. Pearl barley and pine nuts give the salad a bit of texture. This salad is super easy to make, and goes well accompanied with roast sweet potato filled with cottage cheese.

Pearl Barley Salad

Serves 4 as a side salad

  • 500 g butternut, cut into cubes
  • 400 green beans, trimmed
  • 160 feta, cubed
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • ½ lemon
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 T pine nuts
  • vegetable stock powder/granules

Roast the butternut in a drizzle of olive oil and seasoning of salt and pepper at 180 C until it starts to go crispy and brown on the outside, and is soft and cooked on the inside. Put the feta and tomatoes in with the butternut and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pearl barley according to packet instructions, adding a few teaspoons of vegetable stock to the boiling water for flavour. Try not to stir the pearly barley too much, as it could end up a bit mushy.

Steam the green beans in a steamer or in a metal colander over a pot of boiling water until just cooked.

When the pearly barley is done, spread it out in a big flat dish. Layer the green beans over, and squeeze the lemon on top. Scatter the butternut, feta and tomatoes on top, and toss over the pine nuts.