Spice up your Valentine’s meal

Falling into the Orientalist trap, I have to admit that I do find something very sensual, indulgent and seductive in the idea of the Middle East. As clichéd as it might sound, the vibrant colours of the spices and the incredibly rich flavours they produce, constitute the most alluring of all cuisines to me. So I decided to take the classic Russian meal – borsch and pirozhki (not to be confused with the Polish pirogi) as a departing point, and turn it into a Middle Eastern-infused delight. As a result I got a meal perfectly suitable for a Valentine’s dinner or for any other time of the year, when you want to treat yourself: a harissa-spiced beetroot soup served with feta, dill and walnut boreks.

For the soup
Makes 4 portions

½ white onion, chopped
½ carrot, grated
4 medium beetroots (use roasted or boiled)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp harrisa paste
1 tsp of red wine vinegar
1 pint of water
Maldon salt to taste


Roast the spices in a hot pan until they ooze the aroma, take off the heat immediately so they don’t burn. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot then add the onion and carrots and sweat for a few minutes. Add the roasted spices and salt, and cook for a few more minutes. While this is cooking, grate the beets and add them to the pot together with the tomato paste and harissa. Let them cook together for 3-5 minutes and then add the water. Bring to boil and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the vinegar and salt to taste.

For the filo parcels
Makes about 5 large parcels

200 gr. of feta cheese
2 handfuls of walnuts
medium bunch of dill
2-3 tbsp of olive oil
zest of ¼ lemon
juice of ½ lemon
4 tbsp of pomegranate molasses
1 pack of filo pastry at room temperature
olive oil for brushing
sesame seeds for sprinkling


Put all of the ingredients in the food processor and blend until a paste is formed; it is up to you to decide how crunchy or smooth you’d like it to be. Lay out a sheet of filo and brush it with olive oil. Fold in half lengthways and place a full teaspoon of the mixture on the bottom left corner. Fold left corner down to make a triangle, then make a next triangle by folding it from bottom left up and so on until all of the pastry is rolled and you end up with one triangular shaped parcel. (Watch a YouTube video if what I’ve just said makes no sense at all). Brush with more oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds, before placing in a preheated oven. Bake for about 10 minutes at 200C.

Serve together with the beetroot soup while still warm. Ideal for dunking into the soup but can be enjoyed as a starter too with some red vino!



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