broccoli soup with tahini, lemon and pine nut za’atar + a trip to the Southern Forests…


I'm continuing on with my cookbook theme today, but this time it's a little closer to home. After nearly four years of living in Western Australia I finally feel like I'm really getting to know this place and it's people, but other than the odd trip out of town I haven't really experienced much of rural WA, yet. With a husband who is often away working up north and two school aged kids, going away for weekends is just not something we get around to doing much, sadly. A few weekends ago I was invited down to Pemberton to celebrate the launch of local chef Sophie Zalokar's stunning cookbook Food of the Southern Forests, and well, as you can imagine I was more than just a tad excited about the prospect of exploring this new-to-me region! As you all know, I'm a huge advocate of growing as much of your own produce as you can and supporting local growers as much as possible, so it was pretty much a given that this book would sit right with me, but what I didn't know was how touched I would be after meeting Sophie and some of these beautiful people featured in the book.

Food of the Southern Forests highlights local farmers and growers in a way I've not seen a cookbook do before. Their stories are told, stunning images captured by local photographer Craig Kinder and the recipes highlight produce from each farm. The recipes are stunning, chefy but not unapproachable. I've got my eye on converting Sophie's Pear + cardamom marzipan cake with lapsang souchong caramel cream to be gluten-free, and can attest to the pickled kale + fresh ricotta wraps with wattleseed za'atar's goodness, along with the chamomile cream with rhubarb jelly + ginger thin crumbs, which were served as part of the celebratory dinner (they made me gluten-free, vegetarian versions of everything! So lucky).

Heading out of the city was exactly what my soul has been craving and every part of me felt at home amongst the lush green hills and towering karri trees. Okay, so maybe those karri trees are a little eeire just on dark, but still... We got to hang out with a bunch of the growers and farmers highlighted in the book, hear their stories and were invited into their homes like old friends. Ron and Sue's marron farm was an eye opener and I have so much respect for people like this who farm sustainably with great care and thought. Hooning around on the back of their little buggy thing was super fun too, just quietly
We visited David and Catrin from Jaha Garlic, who grow the most beautiful organic Italian purple garlic. Local garlic is something I'm truly passionate about (many of you would have heard me harping on about that yuk cheap imported Chinese garlic for years!) and hearing their stories and struggles only further fueled my desire to support lovely people like David + Catrin. People often complain about the cost of local organic garlic, but when you see the dedication growers put in to their crops (one row takes 16 hours to hand weed!), you soon forget all of that and instead, this questioning turns into respect. I mean, they could just spray all the weeds and be done with it in mere minutes, but for the safety of themselves, their children and all of us they choose to do things the hard way. Respect. 
(Side note: WA friends, you can order garlic direct from David + Catrin now, for their December harvest!)

On our way back to Perth, the lovely Brian and Val from Pemberton Limes showed us around their breath-taking karri tree lined property complete with over 1,110 gorgeous Tahitian lime trees! This is one seriously ambitious couple and all their hard work seems to be paying off nicely. We turned up an hour late (after getting a little lost in the forest! Whoops!) and left with our belly's full. Such lovely, lovely people.

There was something that Sue Harris said to us that weekend which has been playing over and over in my head since I got home. She mentioned how when she lived in the city she always felt like she had to do more, more, more (that damn treadmill I tell ya!) and that the second they'd moved down south the feeling just vanished. I long for that feeling to one day disappear, but in the meantime I'm looking forward to taking Si and the kids down to the southern forests with me next time... we're thinking maybe in feijoa season?! (Highlight of the book for me was learning that there's a huge feijoa farm in the old Group Settlement area of Yanmah, north-east of Manjimup!). Happy kiwis indeed.

As mentioned earlier, there were so many lovely recipes to choose from the book, but it was this broccoli soup which leaped out at me with it's swirl of tangy tahini and lemon sauce. The zip and crunch of sumac and toasted pine nuts in the za'atar sealed the deal and what you have here is a beautiful bowl of something damn special. Enjoy xx

Broccoli soup with tahini, lemon + pine nut za'atar
Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix which you can easily make at home. I just mix roughly equal amounts of dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds and sumac together with a good pinch of fine (or flaky if you like) sea salt. Any leftovers can be stored in a little glass jar. It's lovely sprinkled over all sorts of things (especially eggs) and can be used as a dip with bread and olive oil. The only changes I've made to Sophie's recipe were reducing the liquid a tad and adding a handful of silverbeet (swiss chard) leaves to give it a more vibrant colour, spinach could also be used.
Serves 4-6

1 leek, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole heads broccoli, head + stems roughly chopped; reserving a few small leaves for garnish
1 litre (4 cups) water or vegetable stock
1 x 400ml can coconut cream
a good big handful of silverbeet (swiss chard) or spinach leaves, stalks trimmed off

tahini + lemon sauce
1 clove garlic, whole
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon pine nuts
4 tablespoon tahini
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt flakes + freshly ground black pepper

pine nut za'atar
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons za'atar (see headnotes)

In a medium-sized pot, gently fry the leek and garlic, together with a teaspoon of salt and the ground cumin, in the olive oil until softened. Stir through the broccoli and then add the water or stock. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the broccoli is soft, adding the silverbeet leaves in the last few minutes to wilt. Puree together with the coconut cream until smooth and season to taste. 
In a large mortar and pestle, crush the whole clove of garlic together with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, allspice and pine nuts until a thick paste. Using a spoon, mix in the tahini, lemon juice, water and extra virgin olive oil to make a creamy sauce. Season to taste. 
Mix the toasted pine nuts together with the za'atar. Serve the soup drizzled with a little of the tahini sauce and garnished with a small broccoli leaf, along with a small dish of pine nut za'atar.

Recipe slightly adapted from Food of the Southern Forests by Sophie Zalokar, © 2014 by Sophie Zalokar. Reprinted by arrangement with UWA Publishing
For more info on the Southern Forests region, check out the Southern Forests Food Council. Our accomadation at Foragers and the farm tours were organised by Melissa from Cork & Cheese (thanks love!). 
Please note: I only share things I love and am passionate about, all opinions are my own, always.

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  • Reply
    Emma Jade
    October 29, 2014 at 4:33 am

    I am definitely going to try this! <3

  • Reply
    Sophie Zalokar
    October 29, 2014 at 5:54 am

    Emma this is absolutely gorgeous! Thank you so very very much. This looks and reads so beautifully. You've captured the region's heart & soul and ours as well! xxx

    • Reply
      October 31, 2014 at 5:30 am

      Thanks so much Sophie! xx

  • Reply
    Jodi Kay
    October 29, 2014 at 6:23 am

    Gorgeous photos, Emma! And those bowls! This soup sounds absolutely perfect! x

  • Reply
    Dani k
    October 29, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Your photo's are really lovely! the soup looks divine… yum 🙂

  • Reply
    October 29, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Gorgeous recount Emm, and love your photos as always. Can't wait to travel with you again, my little travel buddy!

    • Reply
      October 31, 2014 at 5:31 am

      Likewise love! xx

  • Reply
    Millie | Add A Little
    October 29, 2014 at 7:27 am

    This is so gorgeous and looks so tasty – the fact that it's dairy free makes me want to try it even more!

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    October 29, 2014 at 11:31 am

    This flavour is amazing. And the colour is so bright! Loving this.

  • Reply
    October 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Fabulous article & pics , Emma! So pleased you loved my home patch amongst the karri trees. I did not know about the feijoa farm out Yanmah way …must remember if I'm 'down home' at harvest time . The soup recipe sounds yummy , definitely one to try ! Kathy 🙂

    • Reply
      October 31, 2014 at 5:31 am

      You're a lucky lady coming from such a beautiful place xx

  • Reply
    October 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    oohh we are in tune! Just posted a zaatar recipe too – one of my favorites.

    • Reply
      Laura Plumb
      October 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      kulsum, you 2 are in tune – beautiful, extraordinary photos and inspiring, delicious recipes both!

  • Reply
    October 29, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    What a gorgeous post Emm! How wonderful to be able to meet people who grow food with love and dedication. The broccoli soup looks wonderful x

    • Reply
      October 31, 2014 at 5:32 am

      It truly was an honour xx

  • Reply
    london bakes
    October 29, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Such beautiful pictures Emma, you have such a gift in the way that you capture people and landscapes, as well as, of course, food.

    • Reply
      October 31, 2014 at 5:33 am

      Thanks Kathryn, you're always so generous with your praise of my work! Much love xx

  • Reply
    October 29, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    This post is so gorgeously vibrant in every way. It's so interesting what you said about the city go-go-go attitude and the freedom that leaving it entails. Like you, I'm looking forward to that, too. What a stunning soup (those perfectly imperfect bowls!) The swirl of tahini really does grab you — I love everything about this. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    myriam / rhubarb! rhubarb! rhubarb!
    October 29, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    love love love the colour of this soup!

  • Reply
    Catherine @ Chocolate & Vegetables
    October 29, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    What a beautiful trip and recipe! I love getting out to more rural areas around here and going past the farms, stopping at roadside stalls, and just generally soaking up some time outside suburbia. Lovely way to spend a weekend!

  • Reply
    October 29, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Now this is a soup that grabs my attention looks amazing. I love putting little extras on top of my soup.

  • Reply
    erin {yummysupper}
    October 29, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Emma! So glad to see you are having delicious adventures.

  • Reply
    October 29, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    We moved to Tassie in 2007 and up until now I haven't felt in the slightest bit homesick. Your images just made me feel incredibly nostalgic for my old hometown of Denmark. Gorgeous and you nailed the area in a series of soulful shots. Cheers for this post 🙂

    • Reply
      October 31, 2014 at 5:34 am

      So sorry love! I bet Tassie is just as amazing and beautiful too though right? 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    InTolerant Chef
    October 30, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    What a yummy sounding soup to be sure, and puhleaze blog the cake recipe you mentioned! Gorgeous, gorgeous photos indeed, so beautiful thanks 🙂 x

    • Reply
      October 31, 2014 at 5:35 am

      Haha, if I ever get around to it and the adaption works out I may just do that xx

  • Reply
    Cheri Savory Spoon
    October 31, 2014 at 2:34 am

    What a beautiful place. Love your broccoli soup!

  • Reply
    Nik Sharma
    October 31, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    I love, love the photographs. The scenery is spectacular and your trip looked like a blast! This soups is a nice twist the usual broccoli versions with some lovely flavors.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    What an amazing time away AND recipe. Lots of green! Bec x

  • Reply
    November 5, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Wow. This is stunningly beautiful. Wonderful pictures and story. Can't wait to try this recipe.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Lovely photographs, and the soup sounds delicious. I will definitely try it.

  • Reply
    dishing up the dirt
    January 12, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    thank you for this lovely soup. I made a version of it (with beets instead of broccoli) and it was fabulous. The tahini drizzle could be slurped up with a spoon! love the pine nut za'atar as well. Thank you thank you!

  • Reply
    October 26, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Lovely photos and post. I made this soup today and LOVE it. I made the following mods (due to laziness or personal preference): I didn't add any coconut to the soup, once pureed it felt creamy enough and my husband doesn't much care for the flavor of coconut anyway. My grocer was selling just the tops of the broccoli with very little stem so I went for 4 crowns of broccoli, used 6 cups of water + some chicken boullion. The tahini drizzle is SUPER tasty and quite bright and acidic, but I thought the soup itself could use a touch of acidity too so I added a splash of white wine vinegar. Finally, for the pine nut topping, I toasted them slightly in some extra virgin olive oil then added my zaatar. Absolutely delicious. Thank you!

    I am considering adding oven-roasted and toasted chickpeas, perhaps tossed in some additional zaatar, to give the soup a little additional something to nibble on as well as bumping up the protein.

    @dishing up the dirt : a beet version of this sounds DELICIOUS! thank you too for the idea

  • Reply
    January 9, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    Emma this soup is stunning! I made it on the weekend with spinach from the garden (and lime instead of lemon- cos I didn't have any lemons) and my family raved about it. The flavours are incredible, the tahini really jazzes it up 😀 Beautiful photos too! Love your work 🙂

  • Reply
    February 9, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    the soup is absolutely lovely!
    and so easy!

  • Reply
    February 24, 2016 at 6:22 am

    This is a stunning post and I loved the way you presented it.. Thanks for sharing..

  • Reply
    jenny lomas
    April 18, 2016 at 7:38 am

    YUM! Just made this, wanting to satisfy a tahini craving. Super yummy…. and the pine-nut za'atar garnish was so worth the extra effort. Thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Portia Holmes
    November 6, 2016 at 4:48 am

    This soup was gorgeous, best broccoli soup i have ever made. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Susan Crooks
    January 7, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Found this on Pinterest after looking for ways to use za’atar. We made it as a starter Christmas Day and fell in love. Have made it again and it is sublime. Thank you!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2017 at 9:50 pm

      So stoked you liked it! xx

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