When the chef cites her go-to ingredients as ‘chilli, garlic, tomatoes, lemon and olive oil,’ you know that her food will be wholesome and hearty, centred around simple but quality ingredients. Which is exactly 31-year-old Nirit Saban’s mantra for her buzzing Bree Street eatery Olami (formerly Sababa), and her new cookbook, Olami: Simple Nourishing Fresh.
And given the distinct Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence on her menus (Saban is a first-generation South African of Israeli immigrants), flavoursome veggie options abound. So in case you thought you couldn’t entertain impressively with a veggie-only mandate, these recipes will make you think again.
Saban’s dinner-party MO? ‘Keep it simple, dim the lights and chill! Food is a source of nourishment for your mind, body and soul – use it as such.’
Imitate Saban’s help-yourself eatery vibe and place these dishes out together, letting your guests load up their plates as they please. Now that’s what we call easy hosting!
Mixed tomato salad with bocconcini, nodini and sunflower seeds
‘Since travelling in Italy, I’ve tried to recreate those delicious moments. And tomatoes scream Italy! The Olami twist comes via the dill and sunflower seeds.’
250g Romanita tomatoes
250g mixed exotic tomatoes
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped dill
1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
Freshly ground black pepper
Note: bocconcini and nodini are best eaten at room temperature. Half an hour before eating, take the cheeses out the fridge and only plate just before serving.
On your serving dish lay out the tomatoes, some of them cut in half, some in quarters, some not at all. Then lay the nodini and bocconcini in the gaps between the tomatoes and some loosely on top. Drizzle the olive oil generously all over, with a few drops of the lemon juice, lastly the dill, sunflower seeds, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Lentil falafel with tahina
‘This falafel recipe contains lentils instead of chickpeas, but the texture and flavour are just as delicious. If you don’t like fresh coriander, try parsley.’
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 garlic cloves
Handful of chopped fresh coriander leaves
Handful of chopped parsley
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
500ml sunflower oil
Soak the lentils overnight in cold water and a teaspoon of baking soda.
Rinse your lentils and grind them through a mincer. For every load you put through the mincer, put in one quarter of an onion and one clove of garlic. Once everything is minced, add the chopped coriander, parsley, ground coriander, salt, freshly ground black pepper and baking soda and mix well.
Warm the oil in a frying pan until it’s hot enough that it sizzles when adding the lentil falafel.
Before frying, coat each falafel ball with toasted sesame seeds, then place in the boiling oil and fry for about two to three minutes, depending on how big you make them.
Serve with lemony tahina dressing or chilli.
Gluten-free poppy squares
For the cake
200g castor sugar
200g chickpea flour/almond flour
1 cup poppy seeds
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
For the sauce
250ml cream/coconut cream
60ml castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
For the icing
160g white chocolate
Preheat the oven to 200°C. For the cake, mix all the dry ingredients together first and then all the wet ingredients and combine. Mix for one minute on a low speed if using an electronic mixer. Line a tray that is 40 x 28,5 cm with baking paper and spread the cake mix out evenly. Lower the temperature of your oven and bake for 30 minutes at 170°C.
In the meantime make the sauce by warming all the ingredients in a small saucepan. When the cake is ready, pour the sauce evenly over the hot poppy sponge. Allow to cool for one hour at room temperature and an additional two hours in the fridge.
For the icing, melt the white chocolate over a double boiler until melted, allow to cool for five minutes at room temperature, then add the cold cream and mix well. Ice the poppy cake only when the wet poppy sponge has completely cooled. Cut into 6cm squares.
Olami: Simple Nourishing Fresh by Nirit Saban (R330 at all good bookstores) is out from 6 October.