Oranges and (Preserved) Lemons
What is the mediterranean for you? For me the essence is in the smell of warm sunshine on the leaves of a lemon tree, and the radiant orange yellows of the citrus fruit.
I love seeing pyramids of oranges and lemons in the market and I pile them high in bowls at home. The juice and zest, sparkling with Vitamin C, can be used for a 1001 mediterranean delights.
We buy lemons with thick, glossy and unblemished skins in abundance when they are in season.They are kept in glass jars all year round. (Click through for the MoreSouth Preserved Lemons recipé!)
We add them to our Merguez sausage in baguette – which can be tasted every Saturday at the Berkhamsted market in Hertfordshire.
This is how to use Preserved Lemons in as many mezze and salad dishes as you like:
- Pull away and discard the pulp, rinsing the peel quickly under cold water to reduce salt intake
- Cut very finely
- Use tiny amounts for a shot of intense, unforgettable flavour. Half a teaspoonful can be combined with the juice of half a lemon in a salad for 4
Seasonal salad of the moment: Tabbouleh
Originally from the mediterranean shores of Lebanon, Tabbouleh is made of parsley, mint leaves and cracked wheat. It’s a green dish – note the proportion of fresh parsley – and it is essential to cut with a large sharp knife to avoid soggy green bruising of leaves.
–200g flat leaved parsley leaves
–20g fresh mint leaves
- 50g cracked wheat (soaked for an hour)
- 1 very ripe tomato
- Olive oil, Preserved Lemon, lemon juice, salt & black pepper to taste
Combine ingredients, stirring in the finely cut parsley and mint, and diced tomato very gently. Serve within an hour as a mezze dish to awaken the senses.
What uses have you found for the distinctive taste and fragrances of Preserved Lemons?
MoreSouth Christmas canapes
Christmas is coming. We are planning times to thank, celebrate and enjoy the good company of friends, family and colleagues. Office parties round off the working year, and we get together to have fun with friends before the dinner on the Big Day.
However, if you are not a restaurant it may well be that you are feeling a little overwhelmed now. While everyone knows that it’s people – not food – that make or break a good party, putting together a delicious feast may add to many other organisational tasks that you have at this time of year.
Bring in the canapés!
All good things start with mezze. The mediterranean tradition of mezze – aka canapés – always creates a sense of welcome and occasion.
It’s cold outside!
Guests may like a glass of sweet mint tea on arrival or some freshly squeezed Blood Orange punch. Another winter favourite is Kir. Add a drop of blackcurrant or cassis syrup to white wine. Champagne makes a Kir Royale to toast the season.
If you have an oven nearby you could put in a small tray of orange peel, rosemary and cloves for warm, spicy wafts of fragrance, while roasting almonds and cashews to serve with the drinks. Before you turn the oven off put in pitta bread or focaccia for a few minutes to eat with whatever your local deli or farm shop has to offer. ( Be assured that they are well stocked at this time of year!) Present the food so that it looks beautiful, and fun-sized.
Of course most companies use the services of a caterer that specialises in locally sourced, freshly prepared dishes. And an increasing number of people at home each year are choosing to order something special before the mad Christmas cooking rush.
You can find a selection of MoreSouth Christmas canapés here. We’re taking orders now for parties and corporate events, for a Mediterranean style Christmas in Hertfordshire and central London. Just give us a call on 07825 760773 or email your order in.
You may like ’3 Top Tips for Magnificent Mezze.‘
How are you celebrating this year?
Mediterranean abundance: the Horn of Plenty
Summer in the mediterranean promises a glut of luscious fruit, fish and vegetables. It’s no wonder the ‘The Mediterranean Diet’ evolved in an area of such rich, natural surroundings.
And generosity is inherent in mediterranean hospitality.
How much would you like?
At the market mangos are in season next month. Why not take a kilo of almonds now – freshly picked, and still in their soft, green velvety husks? Or a carrier bag full of lychees? Plums, apricots, nectarines and peaches - reminiscent of the heavy, golden sunlight ooze with sweet and sticky juices.
(TIP: Can be devoured in quantity over the kitchen sink to save on wiping up.)
Then there’s the watermelon, inspiration for a hundred crisp, cool salads – if you can carry it home!
No one’s counting
Breakfast can be a mini banquet but make sure to leave room for lunch. (Remember, you can siesta later.) This is the time to make the most of the mediterranean tradition of mezze.
Our family loves to visit the falafel stand by the sea where we can pile up our pitta breads with as many freshly cut vegetables and sauces as we want, to complement the delicious deep-fried chickpea balls.
Sometimes we prefer to sit on the restaurant terrace. Before our main dish arrives the salads start coming, and soon the table will be crowded with 15-20 plates - a delight for all the senses. We didn’t order any of these – they’re on the house, but my daughter notices that her favourite shredded cabbage has not been included this time. It is brought, together with another basket of warm pitta and an extra dish of houmus, broad beans and virgin olive oil (my husband’s favourite) at no extra cost.
And more of The Good Life…
at the shared table. Dinner is usually a celebration of family ritual coming from the innate confidence in cooking that most mediterraneans enjoy.
If you are fortunate enough to be a guest you will be offered plates of nourishing, colourful food. It’s hard to say ‘No.’ There is little packaging and complicated processed recipés. Maybe this is why the food is so good?
We can all learn to be satisfied with the fruits of the earth. Even if we don’t have a pomegranate tree at the bottom of the garden, grape vines swinging in our faces or a handful of fresh dates to make the most regal of desserts it is picking the simple, good produce around us that inspires great dishes.
Don’t you think?
Mystified by mezze? It’s the mediterranean meal deal otherwise known as tapas, hors d’ oevres or the good old British starter. Oh, and Americans say appetizer, while the French adore their entrées.
Wait a minute! First we need a quick french fanfare (courtesy of Wikipedia!)
”The word entrée is French. It originally denoted the “entry” of the dishes from the kitchens into the dining hall. In the illustration from a French fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript of the Histoire d’Olivier de Castille et d’Artus d’Algarbe, a fanfare from trumpeters in the musicians’ gallery announces the processional entrée of a series of dishes preceded by a covered cup that is the ancestor of the tureen, carried by the maître d’hôtel.”
Britain made some good moves in this direction with the Cocktail Party and Canapé Reception.
Mezze is a prelude to a meal or evening together. And in Persian it simply means ‘a pleasing taste.’
But what if you just want to stay with the starters trying tantalising little mouthfuls of what-you-don’t-yet-know-you-fancy? You’re not in the mood for old favourites; you want to be suprised and enticed to choose Something New.
Perhaps you’re not even very hungry after the steak and chips lunch but you really don’t need another packet of the salty stuff with your glass of vino?
Or you’re looking forwards to welcoming a houseful of friends for the evening and don’t want to do the trumpets of a 4 course dinner party but you do love to eat great food?
Heard of the Mediterranean Diet? It’s about the sun, the colours of the earth and what’s in season. You go to the market. You choose what delights you. Half an hour before eating you cut selected vegetables into bite-sized pieces and serve with toasted pitta bread or focaccia, and a dip.
If you love aubergine (& garlic & olive oil) you will love this mediterranean smoked dip.
Aubergine Dip (Baba Ganoush)
You will need 2 aubergine, tahini,1 lemon, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, paprika and fresh parsley.
- Chargrill the aubergine on the barbecue or on your gas ring until the skins are completely blackened, and it is soft.
- Rinse under cold water, while discarding either end, and scraping off all the skin.
- Mash with a fork (doing this electrically spoils the texture… don’t be tempted!), and add 3 tbs of tahini.
- Add the lemon juice and olive oil slowly until you have a pleasing ‘dippable’ consistency.
- Add salt, 2 cloves of garlic and black pepper.
- Spread with circular motions on a flat plate, leaving a slight dip in the middle in which to drizzle olive oil.
- Garnish with sweet, red paprika and fresh parsley.
And if you have a Pomegranate tree in your garden by all means feel free to garnish with these jewel-like seeds.
Here’s another recipe for a mediterranean style dip.
What is your preferred way of preparing a meal to enjoy with friends?
Mediterranean dips on the mezze table
Warm bread, torn and dipped in freshly prepared mediterranean sauces and salads are the basis of mezze.
It starts with a bottle of olive oil, a basket of pitta or focaccia and some seasonal crudités. You then add to the table a jewel-like mosaic ( inbetween 3 – 10 different dishes) of glistening colours and tastes.
Mezze means in Persian ‘a pleasing taste.’
There are three secrets of a good mezze table:
1) Be surprising. Enhance the appetite for what is to come. Think Canapés.
2) Be sensual. Give pleasure for the eyes as well as the mouth and sense of smell.
3) Be satisfying. Think mediterranean abundance.You should be able to eat as much or as little as you please at a buffet.
Have you tried this recipe for Houmus? A north African cousin to the Middle Eastern houmus uses broad beans (fava) instead of chick peas – or split green peas in Tangiers.
‘Byesar’ is both a vegan and gluten-free dip. Traditionally the bread is first dipped in ground spices such as thyme or za’atar.
Byesar / Fava bean dip
115g dried beans (fava), soaked overnight
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 tbs olive oil
fresh mint leaves, to garnish
extra cumin seeds, cayenne pepper
Put the soaked beans in a pan with the whole garlic cloves and cumin seeds, and add just enough water to cover.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat until beans are tender.
Drain, cool and slip off the outer skins of each bean.
Puree the beans adding sufficient olive oil and water to give a smooth, soft dip. Season to taste with salt.
Garnish with mint, cumin seeds and cayenne pepper and serve with warm pitta bread.
What is your favourite mediterranean style dip?
Mezze feast in Nazareth
Lisa and Haim Attias run a mediterranean catering company in Hertfordshire.
Recipe: Houmus and other mezze delights
Houmus is a Middle Eastern dish made from crushed chick peas, olive oil, lemon, tahini and garlic. We used to queue for bowls of houmus, served with warm pitta bread, chopped onions and small, green intense-tasting olives at a stand by the sea at Jaffa.
Houmus has a central place on the mezze table. Many tastes and colours can be added including red peppers, crushed nuts, tomato paste, pine kernels and chargrilled aubergine.
To learn the secrets of preparing mezze read :Three Top Tips for Magnificent Mezze.‘ Chick peas have a slightly earthy taste which is ideal for complementing with good, strong flavours. ( Garlic, everyone?) Their use in the classic ‘Couscous Royale’ is well known. Other mezze dishes with chick peas are:
- Baked hot chickpea puree ( a Turkish recipe with yoghurt, pine nuts and red pepper)
- Chick pea salad – whole chick peas with parsley, tomatoes and spring onion.
MoreSouth follows the mediterranean tradition of mezze. You can compose a feast from our locally sourced, freshly prepared dishes.
RECIPE for Houmus.
Soak chickpeas overnight. Cook them until soft, taking off the scum that appears when boiling.
Drain, retaining cooking liquid. Discard skins.
Mash chickpeas in some of their own liquid. (Using a mortar & pestle gives a better consistency than an electric device.)
Add salt, pepper and a touch of cumin and garlic.
Some of the best houmus is mixed with tahini, which has been gradually mixed with the cooking liquid and lemon juice.
Finally, drizzle with virgin olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sweet paprika.
Eat with pitta bread, olives, raw onions and tomatoes. Garnish with pomegranate seeds if you have a Pomegranate Tree in your garden.
3 Top Tips for Magnificent Mezze
Is mezze a mystery to you?
The word ‘mezze’ derived from the Persian has come to mean ‘a pleasing taste.’
MoreSouth follows the mediterranean tradition of mezze. We invite you to compose a feast from a selection of locally sourced produce, and freshly prepared buffet dishes that can be adapted to either finger food or fork buffet meals.
Mezze is the most versatile of menu formats, suitable equally for a corporate meeting/function or a great party.
What are the three secrets of a good mezze table?
1. Be surprising
The Prelude. Enhance the appetite by presenting many tiny bowls of jewel-like glistening colours and tastes. Bite-sized, intense and sometimes piquant flavours prepare for what is to come.
In the Middle East mezze is accompanied with a glass of ‘arak’ (similar to Pernod) or fragrant, refreshing mint tea.
Perfect for: Party, Canape Reception, Cocktail Party
Try: Bruschetta with roast pepper and cannelloni bean puree, Houmus with tahini, Labaneh (soft white cheese balls rolled in 3 different spices), Italian breadsticks, freshly roasted pistachios, rich green olives, garlicy dips.
2. Be sensual.
Work the senses of sight, smell and taste with an aesthetic, well-presented spread. Tip: ‘open sandwiches’ give a lovely, visual variation to a buffet table. Imagine a mosaic of colour.
Perfect for: Working Lunch, Networking Event, Lunch buffet
Try: Ciabattas, Bagels, Baguettes, Rolls (guaranteed 100% organic) with Mozzarell, pesto & tomato, Smoked Salmon, Salami or Mediterranean Chicken fillings. Local, organic Cheeseboard with celery, nuts and grapes, Fruit Platters,
3. Be satisfying.
Serve generous, abundant dishes in accordance with Mediterranean hospitality. Always offer your mezze with baskets of warm pitta bread or rosemary focaccia.
Perfect for: Wedding, Dinner Party, Corporate Event
Try: Prawns in white wine, garlic and chilli, Turkish pizza, Lamb kofta skewer, Moroccan Carrot salad, Falafel, Chicken barbecues drumsticks, Rocket pizzetas, Seasonal platter of organic crudités.
Mezze can be a teasing taster, a delicious lunch table or a sumptuous buffet dinner. Or even a picnic. And don’t forget the cakes!
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Every Friday lunch we publish a recipe for your weekend mezze table on ‘more-MoreSouth, the blog.’