Review by Ali Burdon of Very Berry Handmade
Mezze is the ancient custom of providing deliciously tasty food, served in small quantities, to be shared by family and guests at a leisurely pace. Whilst staying absolutely true to the ancient roots and traditions of mezze, this gorgeous recipe book really shows how this style of eating small portions of delicious fresh and tasty ingredients, prepared in a simple way, is totally relevant to our modern way of eating.
The book includes recipes for both cold and hot mezze, with some beautiful sweet mezze ideas too. The first section of the book is my favourite because it includes all the basic recipes that you will need to make regularly and is the starting point to achieve authenticity. So for example, there are recipes for making your own Harissa and Zhug (two different and delicious chilli based sauces), and mixing your own Zahtar and Dukkah (spice and seed mixes that you need to use in a variety of different dishes). I also love the simple instructions for Labna, a yogurt cheese that can be flavoured with all kinds of delicious herbs and spices, making it a wonderfully versatile ingredient.
I’ve already put together a couple of mezze feasts using recipes from the book in the 6 weeks or so that I have had it. It is particularly good for those times when you have a mix of vegetarians/vegans and meat eaters joining you, because there is plenty for everyone to enjoy.
Many of the recipes are also very simple to put together; Tahini and Lemon Dip, Labna with Dried and Fresh Mint, Orange Salad with Dates, Chillies and Preserved Limes, take just minutes (seconds even!) to prepare. But as well as using it for more special occasions, I have also used the book to make a couple of small mezze for lunch, as they are equally suited for the small and intimate meals as much as they are for sharing.
The recipes are well written with just the right amount of detail, and the pictures, as you can see, are gloriously mouthwatering. You will be searching your local shops for pomegranate molasses and sumac in no time at all and it’s totally worth the search!
As Ghillie Başan points out, in the beautifully evocative introduction to this book of recipes, ‘mezze is the heart and soul of culinary life in Turkey, the Middle East and parts of North Africa’, and given the current horrible situations that are being lived out in some of these areas just now, it feels particularly right that we can celebrate and appreciate this wonderfully hospitable food culture.