A Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired Mezze

Last weekend we invited some friends round for dinner. This prompted a full on kitchen frenzy and much excitement at using my beloved Ottolenghi and Moro Cookbooks.

For the first course I decided to create a 3 dish mezze – partly because I couldn’t decide on just one dish and partly because I wanted to make use of our new rustic wooden chopping board, which I thought we could use to artistically present the dishes, rather Jamie Oliver-esque in an attempt to bring restaurant finesse to a small corner of North London. I like to think we succeeded.

1. First up on the mezze platter was Carrot and Carroway Seed Puree with Feta and Mint, served with toasted pitta chips. This receipe is taken from the Casa Moro Cookbook and serves 6 as part of a Mezze (i.e. there were 4 of us and quite a bit left over!)

Ingredients

750g carrots, peeled

Olive oil

Sea salt

Pepper

1.5 tablespoons Carroway seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar

100g Feta

3 table spoons mint leaves

2-3 Pittas
15g butter, melted

Method
1. Chop the carrots in to 2cm rounds, pour over 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, season wit salt and pepper, toss together and cover with tin foil and roast in the oven at 180 degrees until the carrots are completely tender.
2. Crush the carroway seeds roughly in a mortar to bring out their flavour
3. When the carrots have cooled slightly, whizz them up in a food processor to make a puree – at this point add in 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil and seasoning to taste
4. Spoon the puree into a bowl and stir in the carroway seeds and half the chopped mint
5. When you are ready to serve, spoon the puree into a shallow dish or plate, crumble the feta over the top, together with a sprinkling of the remainder of the mint leaves and a drizzle of olive oil
6. Serve with the warm pitta chips

To make the pitta chips: Warm the pittas in the oven just enough so that you can easily slit them in half lengthways
2. Cut each half into strips/triangles/bitesize squares and brush each side with the melted butter and then place on a grill pan
3. Toast the chips under the grill, turning once, until golden on each side.

Next up were:

2. Cauliflower and Cumin Fritters with a Lime Yoghurt Dip (courtesy of Ottolenghi’s first cookbook)

Ingredients (serves 4-6 as a mezze)
1 small cauliflower
120g plain flour
3 table spoons chopped parsley and extra to garnish
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 shallots finely chopped
4 free range eggs
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
half teaspoon ground tumeric
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
300ml sunflower oil for frying

Lime yoghurt
300g greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Method
1. First make the yoghurt dip – put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk thoroughly. Taste and adjust if necessary – you want a really tart, zesty citrus flavour. When you are happy with it, chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
2. Chop the cauliflower into little florets and boil in salted water until very soft and drain in colander
3. While the cauliflower is cooking, make the fritter batter. Put the flour, chopped parsley, garlic, shallots, eggs, spices and seasoning in a bowl and whisk to make the batter. When the consistency and thick and smooth, add the cauliflower, using a fork to break it down and mix into the batter thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
4. Heat up the oil in a large, deep sided fry pan – enough oil to be about 1.5cm deep. When it is very hot, use an ice-cream scoop or similar to spoon in the fritter batter (1 scoop per fritter) and then pat down slightly (so that the fritters don’t end up too thick). When cooking the fritters, be careful not to overcrowd the pan as you don’t want them to stick together – I did 2-3 at a time only. You also have to be careful not to let the batter get too hot at this stage, so watch them carefully. The fritters should take 3-4 minutes to brown on each side – my advice is to turn them as soon as they have formed a solid enough shape and to keep watching and turning as necessary to ensure they don’t burn.
5. When the fritters are golden on each side, use tongs to transfer to a plate with kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil.
6. Serve the fritters warm with the yoghurt dip, garnished with the extra parsley.

3. Cucumber Salad with smashed garlic and ginger

This dish is really light and fresh and works well as part of a mezze, but also as a side dish with grilled meats, fish, curries, anything that requires a bit of a lift really. It’s taken from Ottolenghi’s Plenty Recipe Book.

Ingredients (serves 4-6 as a mezze or side dish)
1 small red onion thinly sliced
15g fresh root ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large cloves of garlic peeled
600g mini cucumbers peeled
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
3 tablespoons chopped coriander

Dressing
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Method
1. First make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the sliced red onion, and marinate for about an hour if possible (less time is ok as I had only 30 minutes or so and the flavours were still good)
2. Place the ginger and salt in a mortar and pound well with a pestle, add the garlic and continue to pound until the ginger and garlic are well crushed (but stop before it disintegrates completely into a puree!!)
3. Scrape the contents of the mortar into the bowl with the onion and dressing and stir together
4. Peel the cucumbers and slice lengthways then slice into chunky crescent-moon shaped pieces. Add the cucumber to the dressing and other ingredients followed by the sesame seeds and coriander and leave it all to sit for a further 10 minutes or so.
5. I served this on my rustic board, heaped up next to the fritters. I think even if you serve it in a bowl, it is best to decant it into a new bowl using a slotted spoon to drain off most of the liquid as by this point the flavours from the dressing will have been absorbed by the cucumber.

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