Food is central to Middle Eastern hospitality. From Israel, Lebanon, Iran and Turkey, across to Syria and Iraq, no matter day or night, invited or unexpected, feeding a guest is a must be it a full meal or small mezze dishes. In her latest book, the James Beard award winning author and food writer, Salma Hage, has drawn together more than 135 mouthwatering mezze dishes from across the region.
Typically eaten as part of a celebration (at home or in a restaurant), the sharing plates that are mezze can be had as part of a meal or as the main meal in and of itself. Hage has split the dishes she gives us into nine sections, representing the shear variety of dishes that mezze encompasses, so no one could ever go hungry.
As you turn the pages through the ‘Basics’ section and on through ‘Dips and Nibbles’, ‘Stuffed and Fried’ and ‘Pastries and Breads’, you read about one mouth watering dish after another. In these pages you’ll find everything from bread recipes, including homemade pittas and topped flatbread, to lamb sausages that resemble mini koftas, fried sea bass with tahini and curry sauce, and roasted baby beets with labneh (a think creamy yoghurt type ingredient). For fans of Turkish delight and baklava there are recipes in the dessert section, and you’ll also find recipes for floral lemonades and other non-alcoholic drinks that you’ll find across the Middle East.
The ‘Basics’ chapter at the start is a superb addition with recipes for marinating and flavouring your own olives and for tahini and za’atar, all key ingredients and flavours in Middle Eastern cookery – and it’s always nice to make your own rather than buy from the supermarket or specialist stores.
Helpfully, Hage has suggestions for different styles of mezze menus (picnics, classic dishes, modern dishes and dinner), a much needed inclusion given the endless number of combinations one could create as a menu With so many enticing dishes it could be near impossible to know where to stop. As ever with a Phaidon publication, the photography is stunning, and a nice touch is the numerous double page spreads featuring multiple dishes laid out as a mezze selection that’s been eagerly dug into.
The Mezze Cookbook is a book packed with dishes that are healthy, flavourful and well balanced, and a wonderful way to explore the rich variety and cuisine of the Middle East at home.
The Mezze Cookbook: Sharing Plates From The Middle East
by Salma Hage
Published by Phaidon
ISBN: 978 0714876856