There’s something really fun about tucking into a platter of mini dishes, and Middle Eastern mezze contains some of my family’s all-time favourites, such as houmous and baba ganoush.
If mezze is on a restaurant menu, we’ll order it. If the platter isn’t 100% vegan, I find that the staff are always willing to substitute the non-vegan dishes. Back home, we love to eat mezze for lunch at weekends and during the school holidays. It’s also great for serving to friends when they come over for ‘drinks and nibbles’ (or ‘dribbles’ as we like to call them). Today, I’d like to share some of my favourite dishes to serve as part of a mezze lunch platter.
UK supermarkets now offer a great selection of flavoured houmous, so feel free to use shop-bought houmous in your mezzes if you wish. I still enjoy making my own as I love playing around with different flavour combinations. One of my current favourites is sun-dried tomato with Dukkah spice topping. As you’ll notice in the recipe, I prefer to use water instead of oil in my home-made houmous. I find that it doesn’t compromise the flavour, yet it greatly reduces the calorie content (which is a bonus as it means I can eat twice as much 😉 )
Dukkah – the Egyptian aromatic mix of nuts, seeds, herbs and spices – has become the new salt and pepper in my house, and I sprinkle it on pretty much everything. While you can make it yourself, it’s fairly cheap to buy ready mixed. No two places make Dukkah the same, so their flavours can vary a lot. A favourite of mine is made by Olives et Al. You’ll find them in health food stores and farm shops across the UK, as well as online.
Baba ganoush is an aubergine (eggplant) dish, used for dipping or spreading on flatbreads. It’s usually made from the flesh only, but I prefer to blend up the whole aubergine. I think the skin adds to the flavour and texture of the dish, as well as adding more nutrients and fibre (feel free to omit the skin though if you prefer!)
Tahini is an essential component of houmous and baba ganoush. It varies in flavour and consistency depending on the brand. Some tahinis I’ve tried have been too bitter for my taste. My current favourite brand is Achva (available from Tesco and Morrisons). This tahini is creamy, has a beautiful flavour and a pourable consistency (so great for dips and dressings).
The salads on mezze platters tend to be dainty so I make a ‘confetti salad’ of finely chopped cucumber, tomato and red pepper. On top, I drizzle one of my all-time favourite home-made tangy creamy dressings. The dressing is oil-free, and the creaminess comes from ground hemp seeds. The hemp also adds a lovely boost of protein and omega 3 to the salad.
And the final dish is full of beautiful olives. My favourite olives are those marinaded in herb or spice-infused extra virgin olive oil. Once the olives have been eaten, the oil can be used for dipping bread, mixing into pasta or drizzling on pizzas.
Olives et al kindly sent me some of their new Smoky Chipotle Chilli Olives to try. These feature whole Amphissa olives, marinaded in extra virgin olive oil infused with Chipotle chillis. They were so tasty, and perfect for me as the chilli flavour is very subtle. I find that supermarket marinaded olives can be a bit ‘hit and miss’, but I’ve loved every single jar of olives that I’ve tried from Olives et al. They have an amazing selection so, if you’re in the UK, do check it out.
Middle Eastern Mezze Lunch Platter
The components of this mezze platter can easily be made in advance. While the aubergine is roasting, prepare the houmous and salad dish. Adding a couple of extra dishes, such as falafel and stuffed vine leaves, will elevate the platter to dinner status.
Sun-dried Tomato Houmous with Dukkah Spice Topping
Hands-on time: 5 minutes Ready in: 5 minutes
400g / 14 oz can chickpeas, drained (or 1½ cups of cooked chickpeas)
1 TBSP tahini
1½ – 2 TBSP sun-dried tomato paste
1 small garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp salt
4 TBSP water
Place all the ingredients in a food processor (or use a bowl and stick/immersion blender) and blend smooth. Start with the smaller quantities of sun-dried tomato paste. Once blended, taste test and add more paste, if needed. If the houmous is thicker than desired, blend in a touch more water (or a little oil). Spoon into a bowl and sprinkle Dukkah spice on top. This houmous will keep for up to two days in the refrigerator, or weeks in the freezer.
Hands-on time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 45 minutes
2 medium aubergines (eggplant), stalks removed
2 TBSP tahini
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
½ TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6. Line a baking sheet with non stick baking paper.
Slice the aubergines lengthwise, remove the green stalk and place cut side down on the baking sheet. Pierce the skin a few times, then place in the oven for 30 minutes or so, until the flesh is soft and the skin is slightly wrinkled. Leave to cool slightly.
If you want a light, smooth, creamy dip, then scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. If you like a courser texture, smokier flavour and extra nutrients, then leave the skin on and chop the aubergine into chunks.
Place the aubergine in a food processor, along with the tahini, ground cumin, salt and lemon juice, and blend smooth. If you’ve kept the skin on, it will take a little longer to blend. Stop now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Taste test and adjust the seasoning to suit. Spoon into a bowl and lightly sprinkle with cumin, smoked paprika or Dukkah spice before serving. This dip will keep for up to four days in the refrigerator.
Confetti Salad with Creamy Tangy Hemp and Tahini Vinaigrette
Hands-on time: 10 minutes Ready in: 10 minutes
1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
1 large tomato, deseeded and finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1½ TBSP shelled hemp seeds
1 TBSP tahini
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP maple syrup
2 TBSP water
Pinch of salt
Place all the ingredients in a mini food processor or blender (I use the bowl attachment on my stick/immersion blender) and blend smooth. Pour into a small bowl and leave to rest for a few minutes and thicken up. This vinaigrette will last up to a week in the refrigerator.
Arrange a dish of olives marinaded in extra virgin olive oil. Once the olives are eaten, the oil can be used for bread dipping.
Gently warm four wholegrain pittas, then slice into segments before serving. (For a GF option, use gluten-free pittas found in the ‘Free From’ section of major supermarkets, or GF wholegrain crackers).
Do you like mezze? If so, what are your favourite dishes?