How to make a Middle Eastern Mezze Platter!

What a fun month it has been!
Exploring realms little known, I thoroughly enjoyed myself!
Got to know quite a few histories and stories and the magic of how food connects.

So now to the Mezze platter! Referred to as the Mediterranean Mezze, the Middle Eastern Mezza or the Lebanese Mezze platter- this is a veritable smorgasbord of delights. It is made up of an assortment of chips and dips, fritters and fries, salads and relishes.
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The Food Republic explains it so completely and with a cute illustration to boot!  
Pic Courtesy- foodrepublic.com
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The mezze platter (sometimes spelled meze) is one of the more malleable snack trays, varying slightly depending on where it’s being served. It’s a popular way to start a meal in Turkey, Israel, Greece, Lebanon — spanning cultures across the Middle East and beyond. However you serve it or say it, the most important thing about mezze is what it means: it’s Arabic for sharing.

Although this platter is meant to serve as a Starter to a meal, it is quite a meal in itself. I have a feeling after having feasted on these goodies, I would only head towards the desserts.
I tried to get a Mezze platter together and made

I started with making Rob-e-Anar aka Pomegranate molaases.
Pomegranate molasses, as they are an essential part of the Middle Eastern cuisine.
IMG_4969Fattoush- The fresh salad with the crunch of Pita bread croutons
IMG_4817-A delicious Watermelon,Feta Cheese and Mint salad
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Some gorgeous Middle Eastern dips
-The walnut and red pepper Muahammara
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Green Pepper Hummus
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-The smoky Baba Ghanoush
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-The fresh cucumber yogurt Tzatziki
IMG_5858and the hot hot Harissa Yogurt dip!
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The dips I teamed with
No fry Falafels (I have the regular  fried Falafels on the blog too)
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Pita Wedges/fingers
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Crisp Lavash Crackers and
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Spinach and feta cheese filled Sambousek
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And though not a part of the Mezze, two gorgeous desserts
The Rob-e-Anar Kaashta Ice cream
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and the Basbousa cake dessert!
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Ah!! What a month is has been ❤
Until the next one….

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Sambousek- the Middle Eastern brother of Samosa!

Edited1Sambousek! As soon as I read the word aloud and looked a picture of this savoury from the Mediterranean Mezze Platter, I said to myself; Aha!! A brethren of the very popular street snack Samosa- is it! I was delighted when my first reaction was proven right!

The Syrian Foodie says ‘Sambousek is one of these words that is very widely used but it doesn’t have a specific meaning. In essence it is meat filled pies served as a starter, part of mezze spread or a side dish. Sambousek is a very popular dish across the Middle East. The popularity of the dish goes all the way to India. You must have guessed that samosa is a variation of the name’ 😀
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These can be fried or baked. I baked them and did not miss the fried version at all! And to add to the joy- these are wholegrain, made from coarse Punjabi aata. If this isn’t snacking heaven- what is!

I filled the Sambouseks with a feta cheese and spinach filling. Play around and use anything you like for the filling, sweet or savoury. I adapted the recipe from Natalie Ward’s wonderful vegetarian blog, where she has made them with fig and feta.
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I made 35 small Sambousek with this recipe
For the pastry/outer covering of the sabousek

1 ½ cup whole wheat flour/aata
4 Tbsp Oilve oil
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp fennel seeds/saunf
1 tsp cumin/jeera
½ cup warm water to knead the dough

Add salt and olive oil to the flour in a large bowl.
Crush the fennel and cumin slightly with a rolling pin (to release the aroma and flavours better) and add to the flour.
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Mix well and knead well to get a soft and supple dough. Transfer to an airtight box or cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour.

Meanwhile prepare the Filling
A small bunch of spinach, washed and chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
A pinch of salt
½ tsp pepper
1 ½ tsp olive oil
100 gms feta cheese ( Can substitute with a mixture of processed cheese and paneer/ cottage cheese if feta not available) cut into small thin rectangles

Heat the oil and add the onion and garlic.
Once the onion becomes transparent add the spinach and cook till all the water evaporated. Season with just a pinch of salt and some pepper. (The feta is salty enough to balance the flavour so the spinach needs very little salt)
Let cool completely.

To get the Sambousek together

Divide the dough into two.
On a well floured surface roll out about 3mm thick and cut out circles.
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Place a spoonful of spinach filling in the centre and top with a piece of feta.
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Moisten the edges of the dough circle and bring two opposite ends up and seal.
IMG_5593Now bring the other two opposite ends up and seal. (A gujiya maker can be used, but I really found this shape very cute J )
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Transfer them to a greased baking dish and brush the sambousek with olive oil.
IMG_5596Bake in a pre heated oven at 180C till they brown. Brush very lightly with oilve oil or butter and serve hot.
(These can be cling filmed and stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  Take them out ten minutes before the baking and proceed.)
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Serve with Tzaziki and Harissa yogurt dip.
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Harissa Paste and Harissa Yogurt Dipping Sauce

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Harissa is another sauce I knew nothing about till recently just like the Tzatziki. And just like the Tzatziki, reading up made me think of a chutney which is a staple in Rajasthani households –  ‘Lehsun/Garlic ki chutney’!
The same method  i.e. soaking of chillies and grinding with garlic and spices- quite a few of them that I use in my kitchen on a daily basis like the coriander and the cumin. The pungent taste and the versatility.The only difference being that lehsun ki chutney is cooked in oil and Harissa is stored under a layer of oil.

 The Kitchn says ‘This Tunisian chile sauce is a fantastic shortcut to spice up a meal and can be used with everything from meat to vegetables, couscous, roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, as a dip for bread … the list is truly endless’

Any kind of chillies may be used. For a less pungent paste, add some charred red peppers along with chillies.
I made it with Byadgi chilli and it came out nice and just the right level of pungent.
A combination of red peppers and chilli peppers may also be used.
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10-12 red chillies soaked in boiling hot water for 30 mins
10 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp caraway
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
salt to taste
1 large tomato
1 tbsp olive oil plus more to cover if storing
1 tsp lemon juice
Remove the stems of the chillies   and soak for 30 mins in hot water. Store the water and use in case needed while blending the paste.
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Remove the seeds.
Dry roast the caraway, coriander and cumin. Let cool.
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In a food processor add the chillies, garlic, tomato, salt, the roasted spices, lemon juice and grind to a thick, coarse paste adding EVOO slowly.
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Store covered with a thin layer of olive oil.
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The paste stays good for a month in the refrigerator.
Keep adding some olive oil as you scoop the paste off the top.

To make a dipping sauce, stir a couple of spoons of the paste into a cup of thick yogurt.
Serve with chips,crackers or like I did, with Sambousek!
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Recipe sourced and adapted from The Kitchn.