The author, Maria Khalifé, has been made a household name in the Middle East thanks to her Soufra Daimeh TV cooking show. Soufra Daimeh has a huge following with more than 2000 episodes being aired on major TV networks in Lebanon and Arab countries since it started in 1996. Maria also opened the first private cooking school in Lebanon. Who better to present a book of delicious mezze dishes!
Mezze, along with tapas and dim sum are some of the world’s finest small bites. There are few dining experiences more convivial than sitting with friends or family and sharing a selection of small dishes with each guest taking a little of this and a spoonful of that. You can tailor your mezze to the tastes of the assembled party, be they vegetarian or meat-loving. Traditionally mezze were served with a drink as a sort of Middle Eastern aperitif but mezze can equally be a meal in its own right …and what a delightful meal that would be!
The Mezze Cookbook offers a broad array of dishes from Greece, Lebanon and Turkey. They have the flavours of the Mediterranean with the addition of a pinch of cinnamon here and there, the tang of feta and a sprinkle of paprika. Mezze are not alarmingly spicy but rather more aromatic and flavourful.
Lamb is the most popular meat throughout the Middle East so it’s no surprise to see so many examples of lamb-based mezze here. Sfiha bil Lahm are mini meat and pine nut pizzas. Sambousek bil Lahm is similar but the filling is totally encased in pastry. Lamb Kebbeh is my favourite meat mezze and home-made is always better than those found in all but the best Lebanese restaurants.
Vegetarians are well served in the Middle East. Fried Courgette Balls are vegetable croquettes, Batata bil Kouzbara are fried cubes of potatoes with garlic and coriander. Spanakopita are the celebrated Greek spinach pies that are so often a disappointment in overcrowded tourist resorts. This recipe will revive your enthusiasm for this flaky and delicious snack.
The hot stuffed vegetables of Greece, Gemista, are show-stoppers. Tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, peppers and potatoes are roasted with a filling of rice, onions, tomatoes and herbs, and are topped with feta cheese. They are a colourful bunch of vegetables and add impact to your display of mezze. Gemista are hearty enough to appeal to even non-vegetarians but they look delicate and appetising.
The Mezze Cookbook is an attractive large-format volume with around 90 recipes for Middle Eastern mezze and the photography by Stuart West is lovely. This is a lot of book for the price.
The Mezze Cookbook
Author: Maria Khalifé
Published by: New Holland
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018