I always feel grumbly when we order mezze in a restaurant and pay a lot for what looks suspiciously like what I could buy in Sainsbury’s and dump into bowls myself. But mezze are brilliant for picnics and lazy suppers: you don’t have to have the same old taramasalata or houmous every time.
New Holland have sent me a lovely book of recipes written in alarmingly precise detail. It is Mezze Modern, by Maria Khalifé (£14.99; 978-1-84537-978-0). Here are different mezze to try with pitta bread, olives, or fresh sardines.
Batinjan mahchi bil khoudar
1kg-plus (2lb-plus) short, thin aubergines
bunch of parsley, finely chopped
70ml (2½ fl. oz) olive oil
4 large tomatoes, cubed
50ml (1¾ fl. oz) lemon juice
150g (5½oz) small-grain white rice
2 small onions, peeled and chopped
For the sauce:
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
You will need a large saucepan with a lid, and an extra lid that will fit snugly inside.
Cut off the aubergine tops and carefully scoop out the flesh to leave a secure skin all round to hold the contents. Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl, and season well. Fill the aubergine shells three-quarters full with the stuffing, allowing space for the rice to expand. Put the augerbines into the pan, and press them gently under the spare lid.
Pour in 200ml (7 fl. oz) water, cover with the pan’s lid, and simmer for 45 minutes, until the aubergines are almost tender. Dissolve the tomato paste in 255ml (9 fl. oz) water and add this to the pan. Bring to the boil again, and when the aubergines are tender, cool them, and serve.
Batinjan makli ma salsat el laban
0.57l (1 pt) Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large aubergines
Make tzatziki by blending the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and olive oil until thick. Season and blend again, and chill until needed.
Cut the aubergines into thick rounds, season with salt and pepper, drain them, and fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain them on kitchen paper, and serve warm with the tzatziki.
Turn potatoes into something exotic with this recipe.
400g (1lb) potatoes
800g (2lb) onions
800g (2lb) courgettes, grated
100g (4oz) feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, beaten
Boil the potatoes and onions and chop finely. Mix with the courgettes, cheese, and eggs, and season. Shape the mixture into balls, roll them in flour, and fry in olive oil until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.