Recipe: Make our vegetarian Greek mezze
- Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
We went Greek last week in our house as our amble around the globe via the kitchen continued.
In the ‘hat of chance’ as we’ve come to know it, the options were Singapore, Greece, Scotland and Poland. I was rooting for Singapore, having just interviewed the former catering head honcho of Raffles who now, rather excitingly, lives in East Anglia working as a private chef and cookery teacher (look up Lilian’s Kitchen). I’m just going to keep throwing Singapore into the ring until I ‘win’.
Anyway, Greece was my daughter Ella’s choice. She’s spent a good six weeks putting it in as an option because she’s fond of ‘picky food’. Once I’d stopped sulking and daydreaming about Paranakan curries and Singapore Slings, I got to menu planning.
The weekend before I’d have been relishing a bit of Greek. It felt like spring had sprung. The sun flushed my skin. We ate brunch outside. And the bright stems of daffs swayed and nodded on a gentle breeze. A promise of warmer days to come.
Well, that didn’t last long did it? I associate the food of the Med firmly with eating outside. With bare feet on grass. Chilled wine. Long stretches at the table in the garden.
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Fingers crossed this cold snap is just a meteorological blip.
On the agenda for the week were icing dusted, clove studded shortbreads, spanokopita, prawns baked with feta, gyros (aka kebab and chips), and delicate beef meatballs drowned in a red wine and tomato braise with great heaving hunks of country-style bread.
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I’ve taken to buying a spirit from each country we cook from every week too. As I write, I’m still not sure how I feel about sinus-clearing Ouzo.
A highlight for all of us was the mezze. Those ‘picky bits’ we all like so much. The recipes here can come together to form a relaxed menu for four to six alongside warm pitta breads, salad, grilled artichokes, roasted peppers and the like.
There should be plenty left for lunch/dinner the next day too.
All my family (hubby and two teens) turned their noses up at the description of this classic Greek dip. In essence it’s a puree of potato, olive oil, seasoning and garlic. It’ll definitely deter vampires. Just go with it. What you’ll end up with is a thick, warm, heady sauce to lap up with bread. It’s slightly addictive.
3 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
Seasoning to taste
200ml best olive oil
Boil the potatoes in a pan of water until falling apart. They need to be warm/hot when you make the dip. Drain them and reserve the hot water.
In a food processor blitz a cup of the hot water, the oil, garlic and vinegar until the garlic has broken up. Add the potato and blitz again until smooth.
Add a little more water if needed. It should be the consistency of smooth mayonnaise.
Season to taste. Serve warm.
I could eat this by the bucketful on its own. Its uniquely smoky flavour hits all the right notes. Don’t skip the charring of the aubergine skins, this is what imparts its deliciousness. You can do this over a gas hob or even on the barbecue. If you don’t have either, the first step can use an electric grill – just keep an eye on it!
2 large aubergines
2 slices brown bread
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
150ml best olive oil
2tbsps fresh parsley
Heat the oven to 190C. Place the aubergines directly on a gas hob, barbecue or tray under a grill. Cook for a few minutes on each side until the skin blackens, chars and begins to flake a little. Remove to a tray and pop in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until collapsed.
Place the bread in a food processor with the garlic and parsley and blitz to crumbs. Place in a bowl. Add the lemon juice.
When cool enough to handle peel the skins away from the aubergines and discard. Chop the soft flesh roughly on a board and add to the bowl of breadcrumbs. Pour in the olive oil and stir to combine. This is best made the day before and left to mingle in the fridge overnight. Let it come to room temperature before serving.
Courgette and feta balls
Tangy and herbal, these always go down a treat.
3 medium courgettes, topped and tailed
1 block feta, crumbled
Zest 1 lemon
1/2tsp dried dill
1/2tsp dried mint
Small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 medium egg
Oil for cooking
Grate the courgettes finely. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and place in a colander over the sink. Squeeze to get out as much excess liquid as you can. Leave to drain for another hour and really really squeeze to make it as dry as possible.
Combine with the rest of the ingredients and season to taste – you won’t need much salt because of the feta. Fry off a little of the mixture to check you’re happy with the seasoning and adjust if needed.
You’ll need to cook these straight away, otherwise the courgettes will react with the cheese/seasoning and give up more water, ending up with a sloppy mess.
Roll into balls and shallow fry in oil until crisp and golden on each side. Depending on how much liquid you managed to extract, you might find it easier to flatten them into patties.