Warm Mallow Salad

I've just made a cooked dish using mallow leaves.

Khoubiza - warm mallow salad
Khoubiza - warm mallow salad

But it's called a salad which has been confusing me because surely a salad is a dish composed of uncooked ingredients? Well now I've learnt that historically the essential thing about a salad is that it has a dressing - the dressed ingredients can be raw or cooked.

(This made more sense when I read that in Roman times the dressing was sometimes just brine, hence the sal (Latin for salt) in the word salad. My research kept turning up the phrase herba salata quoted as being Vulgar Latin for salted herb and leading in time to our word salad. That's interesting but all mentions of it reference the same source, An A to Z of Food and Drink edited by John Ayto, 2002, and now I'm left wanting to know how he knows that! - especially as Vulgar Latin was rarely written down.)

Mallow salad is a Moroccan dish eaten as a dip with bread. It's called khoubiza or bakoula in Morocco which both also refer to common mallow (Malva sylvestris) from which it is made.

Malva sylvestris
Malva sylvestris

Common mallow is a perennial with edible leaves, seeds and flowers. I planted a bed of three mallows late last year and the plants became quite hefty, but when I came to cook the leaves in August I was disappointed - they seemed fibrous and bland. I pulled them out, replanting one in the herb garden.

But that was before I tried the recipe for khoubiza! When you make khoubiza the mallow leaves are chopped finely, steamed, and then sauteed with parsley, spices, olive oil and lemon juice and garnished with olives and preserved lemon rind. You can find the recipe here.

I needed 200g mallow leaves which was somewhat challenging given that I'd pulled up two plants and set another back by moving it but I gathered extra leaves from mallows growing on my allotment route, some in a grassy border in a housing estate and some more by the roadside beneath a hedge. The ones from the hedgerow were growing amongst white dead-nettle, Lamium album.

Common mallow growing amongst white dead-nettle.
Common mallow growing amongst white dead-nettle.

They showed no signs of any rust which usually infects Malva sylvestris, especially this late in the season, and I wondered if the dead-nettle had anything to do with that. Back home I didn't find many references to the dead-nettle having anti-fungal properties but it is strongly recommended as a companion plant to aid the healthy growth of potatoes and vegetables in general.

To make up the weight I also added in leaves from Malva moschata, musk mallow, which I have growing both on the allotment and in the backyard. I washed the leaves particularly thoroughly remembering that they were growing at dog height, and followed the recipe.
I didn't have the preserved lemon or the special Moroccan red olives in the recipe so I garnished my salad with black olives and plain lemon rind. Stew made some lovely Moroccan bread to enjoy with it.

  Morrocan bread
Moroccan bread topped with sesame seeds

The khoubiza was tangy and moreish.

Bread and khoubiza

But it couldn't really fail to be tangy and moreish with oil, lemon and garlic in the recipe and I'd be surprised if its sister dish, spinach salad, made in the same way, tastes distinctly different. But like spinach, mallow is a nutritious vegetable, and a usefully perennial one, and this is just another great way to enjoy your greens!

Having made mallow salad I think I probably didn't steam mallow leaves for long enough when I cooked them back in August - 10-15 minutes is needed. So will I replant my mallow bed? Well I have other plans for the space now but I might squeeze another plant or two into the herb or flower garden. I might even try and buy one of the Malva sylvestris cultivars, which tend to have showier flowers and larger - and possibly better-flavoured - leaves. They also have some great names such as Zebrina, Purple Satin, or best of all, Mystic Merlin!

N.B. I sell a range of perennial vegetable plants on my website.