Can you even remember a time when hummus wasn’t available in every supermarket? Middle Eastern cuisine is booming and I’m a big fan. I love the fact that it’s all about the freshness of ingredients, food is dictated by the seasons and eating is a social event.
So, invite your friends on a culinary journey to the Middle East and welcome them at a mezze table full of flavours, colours and aromas.
Meze or mezze is a selection of small dishes served to accompany alcoholic drinks as a course or as appetizers before the main dish. In Lebanon mezze is often a meal in its own right. The word comes from the Turkish meze which means taste, flavour, snack, relish.
Setting the scene
Look for warm and bright colours like deep reds, pinks, yellows and oranges that echo the natural colours of Middle Eastern spices like turmeric and sumac. To complement this palette, use bronze or gold accents.
Soft lighting is essential in this theme; fill large metal trays with different candles or use Moroccan lanterns that create mystic patterns on the walls.
Arrange colourful cushions to sit on around a low table. When having an outdoor mezze party you can even create an Arabian-style tent by draping some fabric!
Play some relaxed lounge beats mixed with modern Arabic music; check out the Miss Gingerish “mezze dinner party playlist” on Spotify
Choose a colourful tablecloth with a pretty pattern. If you don’t have a whole collection of tablecloths at home, just like me, why not use a simple scarf as a table runner?
Divide metal lanterns or small glasses in different colours (with candles) around the table. The mezze itself is your centrepiece so ensure to leave enough space for all the food. When having mezze in a restaurant I love that moment when the waiter arrives at the table with a huge tray filled with small bowls. When organising a mezze party at home you can use a simple tray covered with a colourful serviette, a wooden board or a metal candle tray. Serve the food in different, colourful tableware; to mix and match is allowed! Add some instant extra colour and freshness to the table by spreading around transparent bottles of flavoured water; infuse the water with mint leaves, lemon or pomegranate seeds. For a hot summer mezze party making flavoured ice cubes is a beautiful idea: with lemon zest, mint or what to think of edible rose petals?
Mezze can be vegetarian, meat or fish. Originally 4 or 5 mezzes are served at a time but you could also serve everything at once like a banquet. The freshness of ingredients is important, as well as the use of spices and fresh herbs. Foods are most often grilled or baked in olive oil; butter or cream is rarely used.
A sparkling wine or champagne with a splash of rosewater syrup makes the perfect aperitif.
If everyone is gathered around the table, serve an wide range of typical Lebanese mezzes like flatbread with za’atar, homemade falafel, creamy hummus, labneh, tabouleh with fresh herbs, baba ganoush or vine leaves stuffed with rice. A bit of everything: bread, dips, snacks like nuts and olives, cold salads, warm vegetables, and a few “main courses” like a stew, grilled meat or whole fish. There’s always room for a dessert right? Serve fresh fruit, baklava, cardamom and pistachio ice cream or a zingy citrus cake.
What kind of drinks to choose with a middle eastern feast that knows so many different flavors?
If you don’t serve alcohol, the infused water or water with flavoured ice cubes is a perfect match. Light, fresh fruit juices like watermelon and pomegranate are also an option.
Choosing a wine is challenging, since it has to match a huge array of flavours. A rosé wine is a good choice. G&T (gin & tonic is hot and happening at the moment, so why not serve a rosewater version, or a spicy one with cardamom?
For dessert (mint) tea or infusions are popular throughout the Middle East, usually served in small glass cups and with sugar. Coffee, optionally mixed with different spices like saffron, is served in very small handle-less cups.
Inspired to organise your own mezze dinner party? I would love to hear about it or add your pictures, music tips or recipes to this story. Simply leave a reply below or share on social media: tag @missgingerish on Instagram or Twitter