Daring Cooks Challenge (Feb) – Mezze

This month’s challenge is hosted by Michele from Veggie Num Nums. The challenge is to prepare a Mezze (pronounced “mez-ay”, although many people seem to pronounce it as “mezz”) Table including, but not limited to, homemade Pita bread and Hummus. If you’re not familiar with mezze, it’s more of a style of eating than a specific recipe or recipes. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes served all at once—sort of like the Middle Eastern version of Spanish Tapas. It can be served as appetizers before a meal, or as the meal itself.

I took the opportunity to cook this month’s challenge for a small foodbloggers potluck that was organised and hosted by @tammois in her lovely backyard. I was quite confident that I would pull it off without too much hassle. The dishes that I had planned are simple to make. And the recipe for the pita seemed easy to follow as well. But I was proven wrong. A little anyway. The dips and the meatballs were a breeze to make but the pita bread did take longer than anticipated.

Bunch of foodbloggers and a whole heap of delicious goodies

Bunch of foodbloggers and a whole heap of delicious goodies

Pita bread is served at almost every meal in the Middle East. I will assume it is like what rice is to Chinese. Pita bread is a very important part of their staple diet. It can be used for dipping, or to make delicious sandwiches in the pocket as we found out at the potluck party. And the other discovery was that it made great edible spoons ;)

goodies in a pita pocket

goodies in a pita pocket

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons regular dry yeast
  • 21/2 – 3 cups warm water
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2tsp granulated sugar
Pita bread process

Pita bread process

Method:

  1. Dissolve yeast in 1 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until water is frothy
  2. Combine flour and salt in large bowl. Make a small depression in the middle of the flour and pour yeast water in
  3. Slowly add the remaining warm water, and stir with spatula until elastic
  4. Pour dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes or until dough no longer stick and s smooth and elastic
  5. Place dough in oiled dough and allow to rest for at least 3 hours or until the dough is double in size
  6. Preheat the oven to 260C, Make sure rack is at the below of the oven and to be very hot
  7. When the dough is doubles in size, roll out into a long dough. Cut into little discs and allow it rest another 10-15 mins
  8. Roll out each disc into circles into 4 -5 inches across. Bake each batch for approximately 4 mins or until bread puffs up. Turn it over and bake for another 2 minutes
  9. Take it out and allow it to cool
Pita bread

Pita bread

While I waited for the dough to rise, I marinated the lamb mixture and making the sweet tomato and carrot sauce.

Ingredients:
  • 1kg of lamb minced with 3 bacon rashers
  • 11/2 tsp of dark wattle seeds
  • 1tbsp of grounded coriander
  • 2tbsp of grounded cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 tomatoes cubed
  • 4 small carrots grated
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 150ml of white wine
  • 1tsp of cinnamon
lamb meatball process

lamb meatball process

Method:
  • Marinate the lamb mince with all spices and seasoning for at least a couple of hours
  • Roll them into small round balls and shallow fry them in medium hot oil till it is golden brown (It does not have to be fully cooked as it will be cooked thoroughly in the tomato sauce to finish off the dish) Set aside
  • To prepare the tomatoes, make a small cross under the place it in hot boiling water for a bout 1min. Remove the skin and the seeds and chop them into chunks.
  • Throw in the garlic and onion into a hot pan and saute till the onion is slightly translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes, carrots and white wine. Allow the liquid to boil down, add the cinnmon and then turn the heat down, put on the lid and allow it to simmer for at least 1hr.
  • Season to taste. Add the half-cooked meatballs into the sauce. Coat it with the sauce and allow it to simmer for another 20mins
lamb meatballs all boxed and ready to go

lamb meatballs all boxed and ready to go

After getting the tomato and carrot sauce on the way, I went on with the dips. First up, roasted eggplant dip. Roasted eggplant tastes naturally sweet. I should do this more often.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (see note)
  • 3 garlic cloves, skin on
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Eggplant & garlic

Eggplant & garlic

Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Roast eggplant & garlic for 35 to 40 minutes or until eggplant is soft. Set aside to cool
  2. Cut eggplant in half lengthways. Scoop out the flesh and roughly chop. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Squeeze flesh from garlic into a small bowl. Add lemon juice, tahini,  11/2 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Combine with a fork
  4. Stir into eggplant. Drizzle remaining olive oil on top and sprinkle with lightly toasted sesame seeds
eggplant dip in a box

eggplant dip in a box

The last dip is hummus. It is so easy and super yummy. Please do not pull me up for not using dried chickpeas and then soaking them overnight and boiling it till soft. I did run out of time and so had to make do with organic canned chickpeas.
Chickpea mixture

Chickpea mixture

Ingredients:

  • 400g canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 3 tbs tahini paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Sprinkle of paparika
Blended hummus

Blended hummus

Method:
  1. Place the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, tahini paste, cumin and lemon juice in a food processor and process until combined. Add some water and blend it again until quite smooth.
  2. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle with paparika
Hummus in a box

Hummus in a box

I had leftover pita bread and lamb meatballs. It makes pretty good ‘flatbread’ pizza. I sliced the pita bread into, coast it with the sauce, add the lamb meatballs and topped it with baby bocconcini. The little pizzas were placed into oven for a couple of minutes or until the bocconcini had melted. It worked a treat. I will suggest adding a little chopped basil to add some freshness.
Pita lamb meatball pizza

Pita lamb meatball pizza

I really enjoyed this challenge. And it made me realise how easy it is to make our own dips instead of getting supermarket ones. And even the pita bread if made in smaller portions is easy. I wonder why some of the pita bread did not puff up? Not enough kneading perhaps? I will definitely do this again. It is such a good party food.
What is your favourite party dish?