Friday, 13 April 2012

Middle Eastern Vegetarian Meze Platter

I would never have believed that refraining from eating meat would be this easy.

Mrs Ribeye and I have not allowed a morsel of land-dwelling animal near us since Sunday, and quite frankly, it's been a breeze. If I didn't love the taste of flesh quite so much, I may even consider going veggie full-time.

Whoaah! No way! I LOVE meat! There's absolutely no way I want to join the ranks of hemp cloth-wearing, yurt-owning, sandal-wearing veggies (although, in fairness, I have longish hair, love camping, wear Birkenstocks from May thru' October, and own a poncho which was hand-made in Nepal - but I promise, I am NOT a hippy).

No, I can't wait to sink my teeth into a hamburger - a treat that I have promised myself for Saturday lunch, Hooray! - but until then, it has been no hardship to eat the type of dish which I present to you today.

As you may know, I live but a short walk away from Marble Arch in central London, a major hub of Middle Eastern life and culture. Along the Edgware Road are dozens of delis, restaurants and grocers heaving with Middle Eastern delights, and there's nothing I like doing more than collecting a few of these things together on one plate and serving it as a sort of meze.

If you buy ready-made hummus (life is too short to make your own, surely?), you can jazz it up as I have here with sunflower seeds, olive oil, paprika and fresh chillies, and use it as a centrepiece dip for all sorts of delicious things.

Falafels are deep fried spicy chickpea fritters which can be bought from almost all supermarkets these days. One day, I may post a recipe for these (and for hummus, maybe), but until then buy them ready-made. As for anything else, let your tastebuds be your guide - there are no rules. I have chosen roasted and raw vegetables and, of course, flatbreads to mop it all up. Go Middle Eastern crazy!

My combination of ingredients set me back £2.50 per serving, but you could 'luxe' it up a bit with seafood or lamb - but then you would be lying if you called it a 'Middle Eastern Vegetarian Meze Platter'. So call it a 'Middle Eastern Meze Platter' instead.

Serves 4


1 large aubergine, cut into long strips
2 courgettes, cut into long strips
1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, ground coriander, cumin, salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
300g hummus, ready-made
1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds or pine nuts
1 teaspoon of paprika
2 red chillies, cut into fine rings
12-16 falafel balls, baked or fried
100g mixed olives
1 large red pepper, sliced into thin strips
12 cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
12 flatbreads, toasted and cut into wide strips

Preheat oven to 200c. Mix the aubergine and courgette strips in the garlic powder, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper and half of the olive oil, and spread them out, skin sides down, on a baking sheet, and roast for an hour. In the meantime, On a large serving platter, spread the hummus in the middle, in a thick layer with an indentation in the centre. In the indentation, pour the other half of the olive oil, followed by the sunflower seeds, paprika and chilli rings. Surround the hummus with the roasted vegetables, falafels, olives, pepper strips, cherry tomatoes and flatbreads.

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