I’ve only started using purple leaves or shiso leaves (also known as perilla leaves) a few months ago when I discovered this interesting looking plant amongst all the familiar herbs in the vegetables section. It has a very fragrant smell and it has this striking purple colour on one side of the leaf and a deep green colour on the other side. If you’re familiar with Japanese or Korean food, you may have come across this item without realising it (which I did). It is very popular in Korean cuisine in particular and is usually served pickled.
It tastes somewhat like coriander (has a fragant note to it) but not as strong. At first, I didn’t know what to use it with so I experimented a fair bit. It seems to work on a lot of things. At the very least, it never ruined anything to which I added the shiso leaves. It adds an interesting flavour to Chinese stir-fries and it gives any salad I make a nice herbaceous twist.
It turns out that shiso leaves are rich in dietary fibre, essential minerals such as calcium, iron and potassium, and vitamins A, C and riboflavin, and the leaf components are undergoing research for potential anti-inflammatory properties. Needless to say, there are many reasons to try this delicious herb.
One night recently I was rushed for time and had to make something quickly for dinner. So I made pumpkin and lentil salad with shiso leaves (among a few other things) and I was really surprised with how well it turned out. There’s not much preparation involved with this. Just roast the pumpkin (you can even leave the skin on if you can’t be bothered peeling it), cook the lentils, chop the shiso leaves, and combine everything in the bowl with olive oil and some seasonings. It is a great salad to have when you need something quick but more substantial than just salad greens.
- Half of butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into big chunks
- 4 sprigs of shiro leaves (about 10 medium size leaves)
- 1 cup of green lentils, rinse well
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/3 cup of roasted pinenuts (optional but highly recommended)
- Sea salt
- Cracked pepper
- Place pumpkin onto a nonstick roasting pan. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and generously sprinkle with sea salt. Toss to mix. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 C for 25 minutes or until cooked (if you can pierce it using a fork, it’s done).
- Meanwhile, transfer the lentil into a pan and cover with water, add 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil on medium heat. Turn down the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse in cold water
- When the pumpkin is cooked, remove from the oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes until cool enough to handle. Chop into cubes.
- Pick shiso leaves from the sprigs. To chop the leaves,stack them on top of each other, roll them into a cigar and then slice thinly.
- Transfer all ingredients into a bowl, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper.