We're back with two of your favourite series wrapped in one! A Recipe Reveal and book review of the one and only; Mezze - Small Plates by Ghillie Basan. We decided to treat you with a few comments from a beautiful review by The Travel Bunny aka Suzanne Jones along with an absolutely drool-worthy Hot Hummus recipe from inside the pages.
Before we get into the review and the recipe we first want to answer one simple question. What is Mezze?
The word 'mezze' ('meze') in Turkey (and 'Mazza' in Syria and Lebanon) is thought to have derived from the Persian 'maza' meaning 'taste' or 'relish' - designed to be savoured with a glass of tea, wine or beer, a fruit sherbet, or a yogurt drink with the aim of pleasing the palate, not to fill the belly.
At its simplest, mezze can be represented by a bowl of gleaming olives marinated in lemon juice and crushed coriander seeds or a mixture of roasted nuts and seeds tossed in salt and dried thyme. At its most elaborate, it can be presented as an entire feast comprising a myriad of little colourful dishes, each the bearer of something savoury or sweet but always utterly delicious.
‘Mezze Small Plates to Share’ is a new mezze recipe book by Ghillie Başan, dropped onto my doormat this week and as soon as I dipped into its pages I was transported into full-on feast of mouth-watering mezze. Not least the hot hummus recipe.
The introduction to the book gives a fascinating insight into Başan’s travels around Turkey. The time she encountered an extraordinary feast of ‘hammam mezze’ with an animated group of naked women (you need to read it!) to ‘the moment that a mouthful of mezze changed the course of my life’. These are recipes with both heart and history and they’ll transport your imagination as well as your taste buds.
From inside the pages: I first had this heavenly hummus some 30 years ago in a tiny village near Kars in eastern Anatolia. Taking refuge in a simple, one-roomed dwelling after a hazardous journey through PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) territory cloaked in darkness, the hot, creamy dip, baked in a clay dish, was as welcome as it was soothing.
It was such a memorable discovery that I have been writing about it, and enthusiastically devouring it, ever since. When most people think of the word ‘hummus’, they think of the ubiquitous thick, smooth, chickpea purée served at room temperature with pitta bread or crudités, not this delectable, hot version, called sıcak humus in Turkish. I add yogurt to the traditional recipe to make it more mousse-like and utterly moreish.
Hot Hummus from Mezze: Small Plates to share
2 x 400 g cans chickpeas, drained and thoroughly rinsed
2 teaspoons cumin seeds 2–3 garlic cloves, crushed roughly
4 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons tahini
500 ml thick, creamy yogurt
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts
50 g butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped dried red chilli
Warm crusty bread
Preheat the oven to fan 200°C/gas mark 6.
Instead of using a pestle and mortar to pound the chickpeas to a paste in the traditional manner, make life easy and tip the chickpeas into an electric blender. Add the cumin seeds, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice and whizz the mixture to a thick paste.
Add the tahini and continue to blend until the mixture is really thick and smooth. Add the yogurt and whizz until the mixture has loosened a little and the texture is creamy.
Season generously with salt and pepper and tip the mixture into an ovenproof dish.
Roast the pine nuts in small frying pan until they begin to brown and emit a nutty aroma.
Add the butter to the pine nuts and stir until it melts. Stir in the chopped chilli and pour the melted butter over the hummus, spooning the pine nuts all over the surface.
Pop the dish into the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until the hummus has risen a little and most of the butter has been absorbed.
Serve immediately with chunks of warm crusty bread.
About the Author:
Ghillie here, I'm a writer, broadcaster, and food anthropologist with fingers in several pies! As a single parent living off the beaten track in the Scottish highlands it is the only way to survive. In the media, I have been dubbed ‘The Original Spice Girl’ and ‘World Food Expert’ but really I’m simply a hospitable hermit! I love to live a little bit wild but I also love to share what I have.
I have written over 40 Books on different culinary cultures and some of these have been nominated for the Glenfiddich Award, Guild of Food Writers Award, and the Cordon Bleu World Food Media Award, as well as appearing regularly in the ‘Best of the Best’and ‘Top 50’ lists. My food and travel articles have appeared in the Sunday Herald, Scotland on Sunday, The Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Tribune, Press & Journal, BBC Good Food Magazine, TasteTurkey, Eatinmagazine, Diet & Nutrition USA, Middle Eastern Travel and various internet sites and magazines.