A Persian Feast

The story of Purim takes place in Persia, so celebrate Queen Esther with a menu and tablescape laden with different spices, flavours, and colours in honour of the occasion

By: Lauren Boolkin

Hamantaschen are the most recognisable food associated with the Purim holiday, but there are many different foods for celebrating Purim. One of the four mitzvos of Purim is to have a festive meal on Purim day, and because I have been obsessing over the plethora of Middle Eastern recipe books hitting our shelves, I’ve decided to create a Persian feast!

Flatbread (Makes 4)

The centrepiece of every table is the bread. Be it challah or pita, bread brings the meal and the people together. Use your hands, making the bread your utensil. Flatbreads are so simple to make, and they are also easy to buy (available at various kosher establishments around town), so don’t allow a meal to stress you. Buy one or two items and instead savour your time with your guests.


200g cake flour

½ tsp sea salt

100ml water

2 Tbsp olive oil


Place a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, water, and olive oil together until you have a dough. Divide in 4 and roll out each piece on a flour-dusted surface until just under ½cm thick. Cook in the heated pan for 1 minute on each side, or until golden and almost a little gnarly, turning halfway. These can be made ahead spritzed with an atomiser filled with water and warmed quickly in a 200 degree oven.

Freekeh salad with raspberries

Freekeh is a tasty versatile grain created by accident 2000 years ago when a Middle Eastern village was attacked and their crop of young green wheat was set ablaze. The crafty villagers rubbed off the chaff, cooked it up, and the result was freekeh. With 8g of protein per serving it is quickly gaining popularity.


1 cup uncooked freekeh

½ cup shelled, roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts

6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1½ tsp honey

½ tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup chopped parsley

¼ cup chopped mint leaves

1 stick celery, finely chopped

1 spring onion chopped

¾ cup raspberries


Cook the freekeh as you would rice in 2½ cups water. The freekeh should be al dente when all the water is gone. Switch off the stove, cover with a dishcloth, and put the lid back on. This allows the freekeh to steam. If the pistachios are not already roasted, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. When they are cool chop them coarsely. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper to form an emulsion. Add the freekeh, parsley, mint, celery, and spring onion to the bowl. Add the pistachios. Dress the salad before adding the raspberries. (PS I’m not sure if I love the raspberries, you decide)

(If you have trouble finding freekeh, I have managed to source some, email me: lauren@jewishlife.co.za)


Hummus originated in the Middle East long before Israel, but Israelis have adopted it as their own. It is on trend in the USA with entire restaurants being dedicated to it. In the ideal world, soak whole chickpeas overnight (the better option), otherwise pop open a can and make your life a whole lot easier.


150g dried chickpeas

¼ tsp baking powder

5 cloves garlic

400g tahini

1tsp salt

¼ tsp cumin

100ml lemon juice


Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large bowl filled to the brim with water. Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Transfer to a pot with a lid. Cover with at least double the quantity of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook for 2 hours, topping up the water when necessary. After 2 hours, if the chickpeas have softened, add the baking powder. If they are not yet soft, continue boiling them until they are. After adding the baking powder, cook for another hour. Blend the garlic in a food processor with 200ml water until very smooth. Pour through a sieve reserving the liquid but discarding the pulp. Drain the chickpeas and add to the processor. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Add the tahini, salt, and cumin adding more water if necessary. Transfer to a bowl and very gently whisk in the lemon juice.

Honey Harissa Roasted Cauliflower


2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp honey

½ Tbsp Harissa

1 head of cauliflower cut into florets (or just the stalks if you prefer)


Preheat the oven to 220°C. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, honey, and Harissa. Add the cauliflower and toss to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and season with salt. Roast on the lower rack of your oven for 25-30 minutes, turning once, until the cauliflower is tender and starting to crisp on the edges.

Ros’ Hamantaschen

Every Purim I get requests for a repeat of my mother’s Hamantaschen recipe so here it is again. Don’t forget to soak the poppyseeds (mon) 2 days before you make the dough! Or just fill your Hamantaschen with Yummy Nutella or Lotus spread

Ingredients for the dough

½ cup of water at room temperature

2 packets instant yeast

½ cup of warm milk (must not be hot, it will kill the yeast)

125ml of unsalted butter, melted

2 extra large eggs

½ cup of sugar

1 tsp of salt

4½ cups of flour

½ tbsp sunflower oil for greasing the bowl


Dissolve the yeast in the water with 1 tsp of the sugar and leave it to stand. Place all of the other ingredients in a large Mixmaster bowl. Add the yeast mixture. Mix with the dough hook of your Mixmaster (or by hand) until smooth. Put into a bowl which has been greased with the ½ Tbsp of oil. Leave it to rise for 1 hour and then punch it down and allow it to rise for another hour. Heat your oven to 200°C. Line 2 large baking sheets with baking paper. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until ½cm thick. Cut into squares, fill, and shape.

Poppy seed filling

(Begin the day before)

1½ cups poppy seeds

1 cup sugar

50g unsalted butter

1/3 cup honey

1Tbsp cinnamon

1Tbsp mixed spice

1 Tbsp ginger

½ cup milk


Soak poppy seeds in water overnight. Drain the poppy seeds in a colander lined with a muslin cloth (available at any bake shop). Return poppy seeds to the pot with fresh water. Repeat this 3 times until the water is no longer murky. Drain again and place in the pot with all the other ingredients. Cook on a low heat until thick (takes about an hour). Cool before using. Freezes well, so you can make it way in advance.

Adeena Sussman’s schug-marinated baby lamb chops

In my meanderings through the Middle East (in my fantasies of course), I have stumbled across the most incredible food writer, Adeena Sussman, who uses fresh ingredients straight from the Carmel Market and agreed to share this recipe from her new book, Sababa, with us. Sababa: Fresh, sunny flavors from my Israeli kitchen, was named amongst the best fall cookbooks of 2019 by The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Epicurious, and the Telegraph UK. The schug from Friend’s Bakery yielded great results. Do not panic if the marinade is very strong. The chilli dissipates on the braai.

“Lamb chops may seem fancy, but nothing could be easier to make at home. In recent years, Israel has begun to raise a small amount of good-quality, hormone-free, pasture-raised lamb, and it’s delicious, capped with luscious fat and meat that melts in your mouth. When I can get them, I make this simple dish. The minty schug marinade tenderises the lamb and makes it extra juicy and flavourful. In addition to being gorgeous, grilled lemons and red onions add sharpness and zest.”

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

3 tablespoons schug, plus more for serving

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 to 10 baby lamb chops (about 2 pounds)

1 lemon, thinly sliced

2 small red onions, each cut through the root into 6 wedges

Serves 4

Active Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes (including minimum marinating)

Combine the olive oil, mint, schug, salt, and pepper in a large resealable bag and smush the mixture around until combined. Add the lamb chops and move them around in the bag until they are coated in the marinade. Marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 (you can marinate on the counter if it’s only an hour; refrigerate if it’s longer than that).

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove the chops from the marinade and remove as much of the mint and most of the schug from the chops as you can. Working in batches if using a grill pan and all-at-once if grilling, grill the chops, lemons, and onions until the chops are medium-rare, the onions are charred, and the lemons are slightly caramelised, 3 to 4 minutes per side (the lemons may be done earlier; if so, remove them from the grill). Serve the chops with the onions and lemons, with additional schug on the side.

Lamb recipe reprinted with permission from Sababa by Adeena Sussman, published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019.

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