If you’re looking to host a dinner party guarateed to have your friends singing your praises for months if not years then why not try a Turkish feast fit for a sultan. Turkish food is a healthy, flavoursome and full of little delights to tempt the palate.
Meze, is the middle eastern version of Italian Antipasta or Spanish Tapas. These small servings served before the main course can take the simple form of olives tipped into a bowl right through to crispy, buttery Ladies Fingers (filo cigars stuffed with melt in the mouth meat or cheese). Meze dishes are there to tempt the palate and stave off the apetite before a main course. However, such is the array of dishes to be had, you can also make a meze selection the entire meal. This is what I normally do, I dispense with a heavy main course and just serve as many as 12 meze dishes. There are countless combinations of meze for a meal, but the aim is to accompany the wine or Raki (a potent Turkish spirit) with a balance of flavours and textures. It’s great to offer a mix of meat, fish and vegetable dishes… that way, if you have any picky eaters or vegetarians you’ll generally make everyone happy.
What’s great about Meze for the cook is that it needn’t tie you to the kitchen. There’s nothing worse than missing the best part of your dinner party sweating it out alone in the kitchen. Most meze can be prepared well in advance leaving you time to sit with your guests, enjoy some wine and most importanly, taste your own food.
A good trick is not to lay the table with everything at once, but gradually bring dishes out over an hour or so with a seemingly effortless finesse. This will encourage a steady, more sophisticated experience and your guests will be less likely to gorge themselves over a huge pile of food. In total I would suggest anything between 8 and 12 meze for a dinner party of 6 people but feel free to add more or tone it down as you wish.
It’s important to remember that preparation is the key to the success of any dinner party, and especially a Meze. Spend the day of the party preparing as much of the meal as you can and keep it covered at room temperature – just ready to serve as it is or warmed through in the oven. You’ll find this way of eating really satisfying and relaxing. Don’t try and do everything at the last minute – you’ll end up a frantic mess.
WHAT TO COOK:
Most of the recipe’s below can be prepared or cooked in advance. Don’t forget to have a pile of bread on the table alongside some olives, chunks of feta or halloumi and right at the end bring out a plate of Turkish Delight (locum) to tip your guests over the edge.
One little mezze I would always serve with Turkish food is the delicious Caçik. A simple yoghurt and cucumber dip/dressing. It’s simple to make. Coarsely grate 2 peeled Lebanese cucumbers and sit in a colander with 1 teaspoon of salt to drain the excess liquid for about 10 minutes. Rinse and squeeze gently to release the excess water. Mash 2 cloves garlic with a little salt then beat together with the cucumber, 2 tablespoons of mint and 500ml natural yoghurt. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil just before serving.
* denotes a favourite of mine
(v) denotes vegetarian
1. Çingene Pilavi (Gypsey Rice(less) Salad) (v)
2. Sardines Baked in Tomato *
3. Turkish Layered Kofte *
4. Zucchini & Parmesan Fritters (v)
5. Dolmades (v) *
6. Turkish Beans with Tomatoes (v) *
7. Antalya Bean Salad (v) *
8. Tabouleh (v)
9. Turkish Cumin Köfte *
10. Lahmaçun (Turkish Pizza) *
11. Lamb Kofte with Spicy Tomato Relish
12. Turkish Pilav (v)
13. Sultans Delight *
13. Humus (v)
14. Mediterranean Muslim Chicken Skewers
15. Fava Bean Dip (v)
16. Capsicum & Goat’s Cheese Salad (v)
17. Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Halloumi & Mint with Sumac Crust (v) *