- At No. 5: Mint sauce + sekanjabin. Oh we’re always banging on about sekanjabin. It is mint syrup, to all intents and purposes. And Iranian shops up and down the country sell it. But if you can’t get any, you can improvise with some honey and vinegar. Whisk the mint sauce and the syrup together, add salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle over your steamed veg. This works especially well with cabbage and greens.
- At No. 4: One for broccoli. Beat 1 dessertspoon of tahina with about 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and enough water to render it pourable. Well, drizzlable.
- At No. 3: Pomegranate molasses or pekmez (Turkish grape paste). These are a bit sharp on their own, and so we mix them with a little honey and some mustard to give it oomph. This combo is good with oven-roasted veg: you know, peppers, courgettes, that sort of thing…
- And at No. 2: Wonderful with beans, asparagus, artichokes… This one involves frying, and so it takes a little bit longer. Sizzle some garlic* into a goodly lump of melted butter in a wee pan, add a couple of teaspoons of dill weed and a sploosh of lemon juice. Dissolve a tiny pinch of ground saffron in a couple of spoons of boiling water, and add it to the pan. Pour the whole buttery mix over your vegetables and enjoy.
- And at No. 1: Labneh! This is basically thick salted yoghurt, but it tastes like cream cheese. Mix a tablespoonful with half a teaspoon or so of za’atar (sumac, sesame and thyme) and stir it through your veggies of choice. Spinach works well with this. Spiced labneh is also quite good for mashing into baked sweet potatoes (another fave shopkeeper lunch).
We’ve been playing with vegetables a lot recently. Hardly surprising, seeing as we just brought out a new vegetarian cookbook (Veggiestan, available at all good bookshops and some silly yellow cornershops). Anyway, we often have steamed, stir-fried or (if we’re really desperate) microwaved vegetables for lunch. Why? Because they’re nice, healthy, fill us with beans and make us feel holier-than-thou all afternoon. (Too many carbs or too much heavy food saps our energy and makes us feel like meh for hours afterwards. And that is not a good thing for a shopkeeper to feel.) They are also easy to prepare the night before. Once the veg are cooked, as we have a shop for a pantry (shopkeeping has its perks), we mix random things with them for variety. This is our top 5 veg perker-uppers: they work pretty well on reluctant sprogs too. Not that we are suggesting that you cook your sprogs and drizzle them with sauce, you understand: rather that these sauces may appeal to kids who won’t eat veg. As usual the list is in reverse order, thus to build a crescendo of anticipation.