Mix and match your own modern Middle Eastern feast

Swipe some flatbread through this preserved lemon hummus with crispy spicy chickpeas.
Swipe some flatbread through this preserved lemon hummus with crispy spicy chickpeas. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Any self-confessed glutton would have to agree that aside from the lazy susan that allows instant access at yum cha, the most comforting way to eat is feasting on share plates. So naturally, any Middle Eastern-inspired feast must include a table heaving with multiple dishes. The following plates work well on their own but really shine as part of a bigger spread; the type involving the let-me-at-it, elbows-up kind of malarky as well as too much wine, too much laughing and without a doubt, too much eating.

Preserved lemon hummus with cumin and sumac roasted chickpeas

A tin of chickpeas is one of the pantry's greatest gifts to time-poor cooks. And hummus is without doubt the ultimate tribute to their greatness. Yes, you can use dried chickpeas, but most of us don't have the time nor inclination for all those soaking and straining and cooking-with-baking-soda shenanigans.

I have made this with different brands of chickpeas and the amount of water required varies every time, so start with one-third cup iced water and continue to blend and add more water as necessary until you get the desired consistency.

INGREDIENTS

2 x 400g tins organic chickpeas, strained and rinsed thoroughly

½ small preserved lemon, roughly chopped

juice of ½ lemon

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

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⅓ – ¾ cup iced water (see note)

salt and pepper

For roasted chickpeas

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp sumac

To serve

extra olive oil

flatbreads

about ½ tsp cumin seeds and ½ tsp sumac

METHOD

1. Reserve a quarter of the chickpeas for roasting.

2. Add the remaining chickpeas, reserved lemon, lemon juice, garlic and ground cumin to a blender and start to blend on low. Add the iced water gradually until a smooth consistency is achieved. Season generously.

3. Preheat oven to 175C.

4. Spread the reserved chickpeas across a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spoon over the olive oil and using your hands, toss to coat. Sprinkle over the spices and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until the chickpeas shrink a little, look crisp and feel firm.

5. Scoop the hummus into a serving dish. Pour over a generous lug of olive oil and sprinkle over the roasted chickpeas and spices. Serve with flatbread.

Makes about 4 cups

Sticky pomegranate and cumin chicken skewers with date and pistachio salsa. Ottolenghi inspired mix and match Middle Eastern share friendly feast recipes for Good Food, October 2019. Images and recipes by Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

Photo: Katrina Meynink

Sticky pomegranate and cumin chicken skewers with date and pistachio salsa

This chicken loves a wallow in the marinade, the longer the better, or two hours at a pinch. I give the chicken thighs a quick whack with a food mallet before cutting into strips. This ensures ease when skewering and more even cooking. The skewers are spectacular served with the hummus (above) and some flatbreads.

INGREDIENTS

bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 10 minutes

1kg chicken thighs, flattened slightly with a mallet, each thigh cut lengthways into four strips

Marinade

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbsp maple syrup

1½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted then ground

1 tsp lemon zest

2 tbsp dark sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)

salt and pepper to season

Coriander, date and pistachio salsa

½ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped

5 dates, deseeded and very finely sliced

scant half cup pistachio kernels, roughly chopped

METHOD

1. Add the chicken strips and all the marinade ingredients, except the salt and pepper, to a large bowl and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours, preferably overnight, but two nights is even better.

2. Using one skewer at a time, gently shake a chicken piece from the marinade mixture and pierce with the skewer. Repeat with additional pieces of chicken – you want the skewers to be layered until three-quarters full, ensuring there is still room to grip the base of the stick. Repeat with remaining skewers and chicken pieces.

3. Preheat oven to 175C.

4. Place a flat grill plate over medium-high heat or on a barbecue. You want a fairly robust, searing heat so the chicken chars nicely and the smokiness adds to the flavour. Cook the skewers for two minutes, turning regularly, until the chicken is brown, caramelised and darkly charred in some spots.

5. Remove from heat and transfer the skewers to a roasting dish, placed in a single layer. Pop in the oven to cook for an additional five to seven minutes, checking regularly to ensure the skewers aren't burning.

6. Remove and place on a serving platter. In a small bowl combine the salsa ingredients then sprinkle over the skewers. Season with salt and pepper and serve. 

Makes about 10

Lamb, maple, sumac and pistachio 'pizza' recipe with tahini yoghurt and charred onions. Ottolenghi inspired mix and match Middle Eastern share friendly feast recipes for Good Food, October 2019. Images and recipes by Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

A spin on spiced lahmacun topping. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Lamb, maple, sumac and pistachio 'pizza' with tahini yoghurt and charred onions

This cheese-free pizza is all about the sweet 'n' sour, from the spiced lamb mixture to the lemony tahini yoghurt dressing and the charred onion. Add the sumac to the mince mixture gradually so you can control the contrast between the sweetness of the maple and the brilliant sourness of the sumac. 

INGREDIENTS

Pizza base

400g plain flour

150g semolina

1 tsp freshly ground cumin

5g salt

1½ cups room temperature water

1 x 7g sachet dried yeast

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tbsp brown sugar

Mince topping

250g lamb mince

6 dates, finely sliced

¾ cup pistachio kernels, roughly chopped

¼ cup dried cranberries

2½ tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp sumac (or to taste)

1 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds

1 cup coriander leaves, very finely chopped

Other toppings

3 tbsp tomato paste

4 eschalots, peeled and halved lengthways

1 tbsp olive oil

Tahini sauce

1 tbsp tahini

juice of ½ small lemon

4 tbsp Greek yoghurt

To finish

½ tbsp zataar spice blend

¼ cup fresh herbs and leaves (I used coriander, mint and kale)

METHOD

1. For the pizza base add the flour, semolina, cumin and salt to a mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Give it a quick stir to combine.

2. In a jug, add the lukewarm water, yeast, olive oil and brown sugar; stir to combine then set aside for five minutes to allow the yeast to activate. Once the mixture foams and bubbles on top, pour it over the flour mixture. Turn the mixer to low to incorporate, then increase the speed to medium and mix the dough until combined and smooth (about three minutes).

3. Cover the mixing bowl with a cloth and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (about one hour).

4. Meanwhile, place a frypan over medium heat. Add the mince and garlic and cook until just browned (one to two minutes). Add the remaining mince topping ingredients and cook for an additional minute or so, until the meat is coated and almost sticky looking. Remove from heat.

5. Turn the dough onto a flat tray and stretch out to make a large rectangular pizza. I used a tray approximately 30cm x 20cm. (If you don't have one as large as this, you can shape the dough into two to four pizza rounds instead.)

6. Preheat the oven to 185C.

7. Spread the tomato paste over the pizza base. Spoon the lamb mince mixture onto the base and spread out across the area (reserve the frypan). Bake for 12 to 20 minutes, turning the pizza regularly to prevent the nuts and dried fruit from catching and burning.

8. Meanwhile, put the tahini sauce ingredients in a small bowl, loosen with two tablespoons of water, add a pinch of salt and whisk until smooth. Set aside until ready to serve.

9. Return the frypan to high heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil, and once searing hot, add the eshallot halves, turning occasionally so the 'petals' separate and char nicely – this will take anywhere between one and three minutes.

10. Remove the pizza from the oven. Scatter over the charred onion pieces and drizzle with tahini-yoghurt. Scatter over the zaatar and fresh herbs and serve piping hot.

Serves 8

Ricotta, pomegranate and pea salad recipe. Ottolenghi inspired mix and match Middle Eastern share friendly feast recipes for Good Food, October 2019. Images and recipes by Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

Photo: Katrina Meynink

Quick but mighty ricotta, pomegranate and pea salad

This salad is on high rotation at my place. It's not so much a recipe, rather a list for assembly. Minimal effort with a lot of flavour punch thanks to the smoky goodness of coriander seeds.

INGREDIENTS

275g fresh ricotta

arils from ½ pomegranate

¾ cup fresh peas

½ cup sugar snap peas

1 cup variety of microherbs and salad leaves (I used coriander, mint, shiso and mustard leaf)

Dressing

1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted

2 tbsp quality olive oil

1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses

salt and pepper

METHOD

1. Gently break the ricotta (if possible, some are softer than others) onto a serving plate – the pieces should be at least the size of a golf ball so they hold some shape. Sprinkle over the remaining salad ingredients.

2. Place a frypan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds and cook for about 20 seconds or until just fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and lightly grind them – you still want plenty of texture and hits of coriander, not a powder.

3. Drizzle the olive oil over the salad then spoon over the pomegranate molasses. Season generously. Just before serving, scatter over the lightly crushed coriander seeds.

Serves 4 as a side