14 Feb

My first Daring Cooks challenge was to make a Mezze. I couldn’t believe it; we absolutely adore this type of food! Particularly himself as he grew up in the Middle East. When I eventually contained my excitement we chose the extra dishes to make. The challenge stipulated that we must make the bread and the hummus according to  the given recipes exactly. Along with this I made taziki, chick pea, potato & tomato dish, courgette fritter, falafel and mint & lamb meatballs.

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

The recipes were all easy to follow and very easy to make. The one thing I would recommend when cooking a mezze meal is to plan well; it’s a time-consuming task. I spent the majority of a Saturday preparing and cooking this meal and I have to say I actually thoroughly enjoyed every part of it, it was so rewarding when dish after dish turned at well.
The only thing I would alter again would be the hummous recipe. We found it had too much tahini in it which gave it an overpowering taste. We made a second version with less in it and more lemon juice than in the recipe.

You would also have to be a lover of garlic, it goes into everything!!

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

The stages of the bread

The Bread

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.


*Optional Recipe: Cucumber Raita – Recipe adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm
Prep time: Approximately 15 minutes

1 medium cucumber, peeled and most of the seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (.1 ounce/3 grams) OR use a small pinch of dried cumin—to taste
2 cups plain whole milk or Greek yogurt (17 ounces/473ml)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
fresh coriander or mint, chopped, a couple pinches or more to taste
cayenne pepper or paprika, just a pinch to use as a garnish (optional)

1. Peel cucumber, de-seed, and dice. Blot off moisture with paper towels.
2. Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small, heavy frying pan over high heat.
3. In a bowl, stir yogurt until it is smooth.
4. Mix it with the cumin, garlic and coriander or mint leaves (I used some grated radish instead).
5. Stir in the cucumber and sprinkle with cayenne or paprika, and chill before serving.

*Optional Recipe: Falafels – Recipe from Joan Nathan and
Prep Time: Overnight for dry beans and 1 hour to make Falafels

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight OR use well canned drained chickpeas (7 ounces/100 grams)
1/2 large onion (roughly chopped, about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried parsley (.2 ounces/5 grams)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried cilantro (.2 ounces/5 grams)
1 teaspoon table salt (.1 ounce/5 grams)
1 teaspoon dried hot red peppers (cayenne) (.1 ounce/2 grams)
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin (.1 ounce/2 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder (.13 ounces/4 grams)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1 ounce/24 grams) (you may need a bit extra)
tasteless oil for frying (vegetable, canola, peanut, soybean, etc.), you will need enough so that the oil is three inches deep in whatever pan you are using for frying

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, and then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. If you don’t have a food processor, then feel free to mash this up as smooth as possible by hand.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.
5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees (190C) in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
6. Drain on paper towels.

Note: I sometimes prefer to bake these so I can avoid the deep frying. I bake them on a nonstick pad (silpat or the like) at 325F (160C), just until they’re firm, about 20 minutes.

Chickpea, Potato & Tomato

Chickpea & Potato Cassoulet: serves 4/5

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

4 medium potatoes, sliced thickly (I use baby potatoes halved)

400g can of tomatoes

1tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp sugar

300ml water

300g chickpeas (you can use a can but be sure to check the drained weight)

tbsp finely chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion, garlic until soft. Add the spices and cook until fragrant. Stir in the potato and cook until lightly browned. Pour in the can of tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and water and gently simmer, covered for about 25 minutes or until your potatoes are tender. Add the (drained) chickpeas and coriander and stir until hot.

Courgette Fritters

Courgette (Zucchini) Fritters: makes about 6

2 courgettes, coarsely grated

half an onion, coarsely grated

30g flour

1 egg

1tbsp parsley

half  tbsp of mint

quarter tsp of black pepper

veg oil for shallow frying

Combine the courgette, onion, flour, egg, herbs and pepper in a bowl.

Heat oil in a deep frying pan, fry about quarter cup of the mixture in the hot oil until browned (you can make these into flat balls first if you like), flatten slightly and turn until browned on other side. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Lamb & Mint Meatballs

Lamb & Mint Meatballs: serves 4

1kg minced lamb

1 large onion chopped finely

quarter cup of chopped fresh mint leaves

2 tbsp chopped parsely (I left this out as I’m not crazy about it!)

2 tbsp finely grate lemon rind

1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp cracked black pepper

Using your hands combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Roll tsp sized balls from the mixture, place on a tray and cool in the fridge for 30 mins.

Cook the meatballs in batches on a heated oiled grill plan until browned and cooked through.


6 Responses to “Mezze”

  1. Natashya February 14, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Lovely! Great job on the challenge – I love the lamb meatballs.

  2. Emily February 15, 2010 at 6:18 am #


    Your mezze looks wonderful! Would love if you could put the recipes up for your other dishes – the courgette fritters & chickpea tagine look great!

  3. madeinthepresenceofnut February 15, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    I will of course, I’ll put them up later today! Thanks!

  4. bake in paris February 16, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Seems like a great feast is happening up there! The mezze looks delicious and I just love the addition of meatballs!

    Sawadee from bangkok,

  5. Michele February 16, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    Thank you so much for cooking mezze along with me this month. I think your meal is lovely–all your food looks so delicious. Thank you so much for posting the additional recipes. I definitely want to make the cassoulet and the fritters. Yum! I’ve never had zucchini fritters before but since I love squash I think they’ll be fabulous!

  6. Rouba March 12, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    I wish I could have tasted it! It looks delicious.
    We use paprika to decorate the hummus plate. And don’t forget to eat it with a bit of olive oil on top!

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