Give your favourite classic Mediterranean dishes a local twist with the help of South African foodie and author Ilse van der Merwe.
Local foodie Ilse van der Merwe serves up a feast of flavours in her first cookbook, Cape Mediterranean. Giving classic Mediterranean dishes a local twist with fresh, seasonal produce, her mouthwatering meals are all the inspiration you need for your next al fresco dinner party.


serves 6, as a snack

4 x 250ml (4 cups) white bread flour
10ml (2 teaspoons) instant dry yeast
7.5ml (1½ teaspoons) fine salt
375ml (1½ cups) lukewarm water
10ml (2 teaspoons) olive oil
125 – 200ml (½ – ¾ cup) preserved kalamata-style olives
1 round feta, cubed

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
2. Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl with a spoon. Add the water and mix until it becomes lumpy. Use your hands to work into a rough ball of dough, kneading for 5 – 10 minutes to a smooth ball. Oil the ball all over, then place in a bowl covered with a plastic bag to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then use your hands to pat it out or stretch into an oval shape of about 1cm thick. Use your fingers to make indentations in the surface all over. Arrange the olives and feta all over, then leave to rise a second time for about 20 minutes. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm, sliced, with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt flakes.
4. This is an easy recipe to make by hand, without the need for any fancy stand mixers or equipment.


Note: This recipe requires a few hours of soaking, so start the previous day if you want to make it for lunch.

serves a crowd

250g uncooked organic chickpeas
10ml (2 teaspoons) bicarbonate of soda
125ml (½ cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
30ml (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 clove garlic, finely grated
80ml (1/3 cup) tahini (sesame paste)
1ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground cumin
60 – 125ml (1/4 – ½ cup) cold water
125ml (½ cup) kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
A generous handful fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
30ml (2 tablespoons) pine nuts, roasted in a dry pan

1. Place the chickpeas and 5ml (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda in a ceramic bowl and cover with water to a level of about 5cm above the chickpeas. Soak for at least three hours, but preferably overnight. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then transfer to a medium-size pot. Add the remaining 5ml (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda and cover with fresh water to the same level as before. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender and almost falling apart, skimming off any foam from the surface.
2. Transfer the cooked chickpeas to a food processor (or better yet, a power blender) along with the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, tahini, cumin and some salt. Process to a fine, creamy purée, adding enough cold water to loosen it up and get a really smooth result – the magic is all in the texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Store in the fridge until ready to serve – it needs some time to rest and for the flavours to develop, so it’s best to make ahead.
3. Serve at room temperature (give it a good stir before plating) on a shallow wide plate, topped with chopped olives, parsley and roasted pine nuts with a generous drizzle of olive oil and some crusty bread on the side.
4. The hummus will keep well in the fridge for at least four days.


(with crackling) with orange, fennel & paprika

serves at least eight, but will serve a large crowd if used as a pulled pork filling.

About 4kg whole pork shoulder, bone-in
30 – 45ml (2 – 3 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
10ml (2 teaspoons) salt
5ml (1 teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
15ml (1 tablespoon) ground fennel
15ml (1 tablespoon) smoked paprika
10ml (2 teaspoons) ground coriander
10ml (2 teaspoons) ground cumin
Finely grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
375ml (½ bottle) dry white wine

1. Preheat the oven to 120°C. Remove the skin of the shoulder using a sharp knife. Place the skin on a wire rack and refrigerate, uncovered, until later.
2. Place the shoulder in your largest deep roasting tray. Rub with olive oil. Mix the salt, pepper, fennel, paprika, coriander, cumin and orange rind, then rub it all over the meat. Pour the orange juice and wine into the tray, then cover with heavy-duty foil and roast for 8 hours until falling from the bone and really tender.
3. Serve warm, pulling the meat apart to soak in the pan juices, with sides or pasta, and a piece of crispy crackling on the side.

There are only a few key points to a successful crackling:
Dry out the skin.
Season generously with salt.
Cook over high heat.

1. Score the skin in parallel lines using a very sharp blade or NT cutter (or ask your butcher to do it). The reserved skin layer of the pork shoulder should spend at least 8 hours in the fridge, uncovered, drying out on a wire rack.
2. About 1 hour before serving the meat, remove the roast from the oven (keep it covered) and turn the heat up to the highest setting (230 – 260°C). Salt the dried-out skin, rubbing the salt into the scored lines. Place the salted layer of skin in the preheated oven and roast for 30 – 45 minutes (depending on thickness) on a setting above the middle rack, until bubbling up and very crispy and golden (don’t let it get too dark). Remove and let it cool. Cut into shards and serve with the roast. (Can be prepared an hour or two in advance.)


serves 4, as a main meal or 6, as a side dish

250g (2 cups) brown or black lentils
Water, to cover
45ml (3 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
Juice and finely grated rind of 1 medium-size lemon
1 clove garlic, finely grated
10ml (2 teaspoons) honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A small bunch fresh Italian parsley and mint, finely chopped

Roasted vegetables
Assorted vegetables, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks (like beetroot, carrots, brussels sprouts and leeks – enough to fill a standard roasting tray in a single layer)
30ml (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
2.5ml (½ teaspoon) ground cumin
2.5ml (½  teaspoon) ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To assemble
200g plain goat’s milk cheese (chevin)
More parsley and mint, roughly chopped, to serve
About 30ml (2 tablespoons) pine nuts (or flaked almonds), roasted in a dry pan

1. For the lentils, place them in a large pot and cover with cold water (about 5cm above the lentils). Cook for about 30 minutes until tender but still retaining shape, then drain and rinse briefly with hot water. Shake off excess water, then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice and rind, garlic and honey in a small mixing bowl, then pour it over the warm lentils and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the parsley and mint and stir well.
2. For the vegetables, preheat the oven to 220°C. Arrange the vegetables on a roasting tray, drizzle with oil and season with cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or until golden brown and tender.
3. To assemble: Add the roasted veg to the cooked lentils, add chunks of goat’s milk cheese, then scatter with more parsley, mint and pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.


makes 18

400g (2 cups) white sugar
500ml (2 cups) water
30ml (2 tablespoons) honey
2 whole cloves
Peeled rind of ½ lemon

For the syrup, bring all the ingredients to a boil in a small pot, then cook rapidly for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Filo cigars
100g raw almonds
100g walnuts
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
Finely grated rind of 1 orange 
5ml (1 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
60ml (1/4 cup) icing sugar
1ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
1 extra-large egg white
2.5ml (½ teaspoon) almond essence
6 sheets filo pastry
About 80ml (1/3 cup) canola oil
30ml (2 tablespoons) shelled whole pistachios, finely chopped (optional)

1. For the filo cigars, place the almonds and walnuts in a food processor and process until finely chopped (don’t take it too far, you don’t want to make a nut butter). Add the grated citrus rind, cinnamon, icing sugar, salt and egg white and process to a paste. Divide into six parts and roll out into long snakes of about 1.5cm thickness and 21cm length.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Working with one sheet of filo (21 x 34cm) at a time on a large working surface, brush with oil all over, then place a rolled-out nut shape on one end. Roll it up neatly, then cut each into equal parts of about 7cm each. Arrange tightly in a baking tray sprayed with non-stick spray and bake for 18 – 20 minutes or until golden brown. While the cigars are baking, gently reheat the syrup. Remove the cigars from the oven and pour the hot syrup over them. Leave to cool in the tray. When cool, remove from the syrup, scatter with some finely chopped pistachios and serve.

Cape Mediterranean by Ilse van der Merwe is published by Struik Lifestyle, an imprint of Penguin Random House South Africa. Now available in bookstores nationwide.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. All the cooking you have shared after seeing this my mouth is watering. And also one dessert item I can see but I didn't taste it yet. But I like to do it. Also,do you know one thing about dessert. At present baklava is ruling in this world as a dessert. Also. many people have questions where to buy baklava online but not all online shop is good for baklava. Only Dubai is the best for all kind of baklava.