Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cumin, garlic, walnuts and pomegranate molasses

There are no waiters at the Cedar restaurant, only the owners, David and Marlene. And although they charge corkage, it's advisable to bring your own wine.

It's not a glamorous spot by any stretch of the imagination. You will park outside a very drab building (that always puts me in mind of my local police station) right on busy Sommerset Road in Sea Point, ring the buzzer and then climb a grotty stair case to the second level, where you will find the restaurant. You may have had low expectations about the decor to begin with, but even so you will probably be disappointed.

And yet...

And yet this is one of my favourite restaurants. Has been for years. I love the cloth that adorns the roof, bedouin-style. I love the plastic tables, the quaint 'big five' bronze artworks, the large mural of broken pillars and countryside. And the food... The fried cauliflower, soft homemade pitas, stuffed grape leaves, baba ghanoush, kibbeh, the most addictive hummus topped with coriander, garlic and olive oil, crispy sardines, eye-watering Turkish coffee...

But this isn't a restaurant review, believe it or not.

Last time we were at the Cedar, David sat chatting with us after the meal, keen to impart a little of his not insubstantial knowledge on Lebanese food. I inquired about the pomegranate molasses he uses and where he buys it, and he told me he imports it — and sells it. So of course I bought some.

It's thick and syrapy, obviously, but the flavour is quite extraordinary — a bit like sour figs.

Then David made me memorise four ingredients — walnuts, cumin, garlic and pomegranate molasses — that, when combined, can be used as a marinade for chicken and any kind of red meat.

So, a few days later, I crushed five cloves of garlic, toasted a generous tablespoon of cumin and combined these with 100g walnuts and about three tablespoons pomegranate molasses with a pestle and mortar.

I rubbed the paste all over a deboned leg of lamb and left it to marinade overnight, then roasted it to perfection. The result was a glorious, distinctly Middle Eastern flavour, which was beautifully complemented by lemony full-cream Greek yoghurt. I suspect it would also work a treat slathered over cauliflower florets before roasting.

Just putting it out there... Use it. Don't use it. It's an unusual combination of ingredients, one I'll be revisiting soon.

The Cedar: 021 433 2546

Pssst: I would like to apologise for an inaccuracy in this post that I've just corrected –  I originally said that the Cedar does not charge corkage, when, in fact, they do. R30. A cheek, since they don't really have a much of a wine list, but there you go. 


  1. I love that place and what a wonderfully inspiring rub this is!

  2. oooh so good to know! i live right near there, but the building is pretty dodge, so i've been wary about going up! will give it a try asap.. and that marinade? sounds DELISH!

  3. Right, Cedar noted- love N African and Middle Eastern cusine of all sorts. I have all the ingredients for tonight's chicken- save for the pom molasses..Drats!

  4. The marinade sounds delicious and definitely worth a try!

  5. Gah *unintelligible sounds* ..... I am in love. Must. Have. Pomegranate molasses.

  6. I love it...... Cumin, Garlic, Walnuts & Pomegranate, 'got it' :) It sounds incredible & easy, one I'll definatly be trying out. Thanks for sharing :)

  7. This sounds like my kind of place. How fun to visit with the owner.

  8. I wish I could have met them! They sound like my kind of folks, typical Lebanese folks actually; this is one of my favorite sauces, I have made it and used it on so many things: pizza, pasta, potatoes, etc. It is a variant of muhammara, a sauce that originated in Aleppo, syria. I love it and once made it (with a twist) on eggplant and it was my best dish ever. So glad you have found a place like this and bravo for trying out this. (PS: the eggplant recipe and all the others are in the blog as well). Take care, J.

  9. Thanks Robin,
    I am so totally stealing that one except for the walnuts. It's hell on those with nut allergies!

  10. wow awesome spice mix, great your food blogging meet up was a success :-)

    hope to meet you one of these days


  11. Sounds just marvelous! Blessings, Catherine

  12. Given that I have a jar of pomegranate molasses in my cabinet right seems kind of wrong not to make this, when it sounds so delicious!

  13. Sounds amazing! both restaurant and recipe : )