Weeknight Entertaining 2: A Meze Meal with Friends

Olga's Meze Meal

Weeknight Entertaining 2: A Meze Meal with Friends

As the weather warms up our eating habits tend to change.  Gone is the desire for a hot and hearty meal, replaced by cravings for crisp, fresh flavours and light bites. After a long, hot day at work the thought of sitting down to a rich three-course dinner is too much for guests to handle.

Therefore for this week’s menu I’ve chosen to embrace a laid-back entertaining style, allowing for guests to pick at as much or as little as they wish. The selection of earthy hummus, fresh salads and salty/spicy flavours makes for an exciting meze meal easy to share amongst friends.

This is also a good meal for having fun with the presentation. For example, to transform what may have seemed an unadventurous dip’n’chips starter into a carefully considered, delightful dish, serve the hummus alongside dainty individual cups filled with crudités and bread sticks.

You’ll need to prepare the hummus and lemon lime gelato in advance. The hummus can keep for as long as a week, if you can stop yourself from nibbling away at it in the meantime! And for those who want to be extra organised, you can even make the couscous salad the night before too.

So invite the girls over and settle yourselves out in the garden for a Mediterranean treat, with a colourful spread on the table, glimmering candles and a bottle of crisp white wine. Round the evening off with the wonderfully tart yet creamy lemon lime gelato and I can guarantee everyone will be impressed.

(Note on quantity: The below will serve 3 - 4 people, depending on appetites.)

Courgette & Parmesan Hummus:

(makes approx 500g)

240g chick peas
240g courgette
60g grated parmesan
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil (extra may be needed to loosen the mix)
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1tsp paprika
salt and black pepper, to taste 

- Slice courgette lengthways, approximately 0.5cm thick. Place under grill (no oil needed) for 12-15 minutes until softened. Do not worry if it blackens slightly.
- Blend grilled courgette (cooled slightly), chick peas, parmesan, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper with either a hand held mixer or a blender for about 45 seconds until a rough paste is formed.
- Slowly add olive oil whilst continuing to mix, blending until the hummus becomes smooth. You may need to add extra oil or lemon juice to loosen the mixture.
- Add in the cracked black pepper and serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan and crudités, crisps or pitta chips.

 Chorizo & Halloumi Skewers:

250g halloumi, cut into roughly 1inch cubes
1 ring of chorizo (225g), sliced 1.5 cm thick
1 large courgette, sliced into thin ribbons with vegetable peeler
5 skewers 

- Wrap each cube of halloumi with one ribbon of courgette.
- Add chorizo and courgette wrapped halloumi pieces onto the skewers one at a time, starting and ending with the chorizo on each one.
- Place on a metal grill pan with a tray beneath to catch any escaping juice. Cook under the grill for 5 – 7 minutes, making sure that you do not over cook the chorizo. This can also be done on a BBQ.
- Serve immediately. (Halloumi is best when freshly cooked and hot.) 

Chilli Feta:

3 large red chillies, thinly sliced lengthways
3 large spring onions, thinly sliced
Olive oil
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
200g  feta
Bread to serve, such as crusty rolls or ciabatta

- Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan.
- Add chillies and spring onions, gently frying until slightly softened.
- Place the sprigs of thyme into the pan and lower the feta on top.
- Fry until cheese has softened lightly on both sides.
- Serve with the chilli mix on top and warmed bread. 

Chunky Cucumber and Tomato Salad:

½ cucumber, cut into chunks
275g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
100g black olives, without stones
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

- Add cucumber, tomatoes, red onion and olives to a bowl.
- Sprinkle with the red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss well before serving.

Citrusy Couscous Salad: 

150g couscous
325ml boiling water
1tsp boullion powder (or ½ stock cube)
Small knob of butter
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
100g sultanas
Bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Zest of ½ lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil 

- Place couscous in a medium sized bowl with the butter and boullion powder. Add boiling water and briefly stir until butter has dissolved.
- Cover bowl firmly with a plate and set aside until all the water has been absorbed (approximately 15 minutes).
- In a larger bowl mix together pomegranate seeds, sultanas, coriander, drizzle of olive oil, lemon zest and juice.
- When ready, fluff up the couscous with a fork and add to large bowl with remaining ingredients whilst still warm.
- Mix well and set aside to infuse with the lemon before serving. 

Lemon Lime Gelato:

60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx 1 lemon)
60ml freshly squeezed lime juice (approx 1 lime)
Zest of 1 ½ lemon
Zest of 1 ½ lime
100g granulated sugar
125ml double cream
Few sprigs of fresh mint 

- In a saucepan stir together lemon and lime juice and the zests with sugar. Simmer until sugar has dissolved.
- Strain liquid and set aside to cool in fridge.
- When cool, mix in the double cream and pour into ice-cube tray. Makes approximately 15 cubes.
- Freeze until set (preferably overnight) and spoon into cups to serve, with a sprig of mint in each. (Do not be afraid to eat the mint leaves – they taste delicious with the tart lemon and lime flavours!)

Olga Morawski