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Afife Harris, who has a stall at the Otago Farmers Market at the Dunedin Railway Station on Saturday mornings and teaches Middle Eastern cooking classes gave me this recipe for using wild dandelion leaves - something that is traditional around the Mediterranean and many other places in Europe, where dandelions were among the wild spring herbs people used to gather.
Make sure the dandelions have not been sprayed. Young, spring leaves are milder, as they become more bitter after flowering - but some people prefer that.
She says you can use chicory as well, but other greens, such as silverbeet, kale or a mix of leaves, also work with this flexible recipe.
Hindbeh bil zayat (Dandelion or chicory leaves in oil)
1 kg dandelion leaves
½ cup olive oil
5 onions, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 Tbsp lemon juice.
salt to taste.
Wash the leaves well. Chop finely. Bring water to a boil then add the leaves and cook over medium heat for about five minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water then squeeze until dry.
Cook onion in the oil until golden. Add the leaves and cook for another 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and salt and cook another five minutes. Serve warm or cold.
Afife's dandelion salad was delicious - a slight sweetness from the onion, a hint of lemon and well-flavoured leaves melded together with the oil.