Looks like I’m springing back to a decent blog posting. The last few days I’ve posted quite regularly and I hope to maintain this habit for some time now.
I had wanted to post a lot of International street food this month but some how one thing or the other kept me busy and away from blogging rather from cooking new.. somehow I’m trying desperately now to post some interesting street food.
To start off I’m going straight to the Middle East and indulging myself into a Mezze Platter.. It so happened, that for my birthday we all ventured into the world of Greek food and we did order a part of the mezze. I must confess here that the food was good and tasty but I missed the WOW factor there. I must tell you that this restaurant is extremely popular and has also won the Times Food Guide Award too but still I missed the X factor and found it bland for my palate. It was then only that I decided to cook the platter for my family at home, in my style and with my touch..
The ‘Mezze’ or Meze as suggested is one of the more malleable snack trays, varying slightly depending on where it's being served. It's a popular way to start a meal in Turkey, Israel, Greece, Lebanon — spanning cultures across the Middle East and beyond. In Levantine and Caucasus regions it is served at the beginning of the meals. However, you serve it or say it, the most important thing about mezze is what it means: it's Arabic Food for sharing!!
The common dishes in a mezze are:
Baba ganoush/ Muttabal
Cut salad and olives and more..
My Mezze platter includes Hummus, Tahini, Baba Ghanoush, Pita Bread, Falafel and cut salad. I cooked the entire platter in one day and realized later that I should have split the cooking it into two days, by the end of the day I was exhausted to the core and the only relieving factor was the smile on family’s faces after they savored the meal. Apart from discussing which ingredient goes into what, the family also discussed the cost of the entire meal cooked at home versus what we paid at the restaurant. The kids said Mom you have beaten Willi as your food is far better than his and plus we saved a lot of money!!!
Since it’s an elaborate platter, this post is going to be long, so those interested in learning and picking up recipes, will need patience..
To start off with the recipes, I ‘m picking the simplest one, the Tahini. Tahini is nothing but a paste of hulled sesame seeds and olive oil which is used as a dip and is an important ingredient for making Baba Ghanoush and Hummus. It is very quick to make and is done in almost 15mins.
For making Tahini roast a cup of white sesame seeds, tossing continuously on low flame without browning them. Cool and grind with a quarter cup of olive oil ( I used EVOO) and salt to taste, to make a paste. Store in an air tight container in refrigerator. This can stay for as long as three months. While using add more olive oil based on the consistency you need.
Hummus, is one of the most popular cold dip/ spread from the middle east made using chickpeas. Served with fresh or toasted pita bread, hummus makes for a great snack or appetizer.Tahini is an important part of the hummus recipe and cannot be substituted. However, it can be omitted.
For making Hummus take 1cup of cooked chickpeas (soak 1/2cup chickpeas overnight and then pressure cook them) and grind it to a smooth paste along with 2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons of tahini, salt to taste, 1tbsp lemon juice and half cup olive oil.
Hummus is always served in a wide plate so that it’s easy to lift. Garnish it with some chili powder and cumin powder and sufficient olive oil to coat the chickpeas as they dry very fast. This quantity of Hummus made using the above proportions is sufficient for 5-6 people.
Baba Ghanoush can be called as Arabic Baingan Ka Bharta. It is a version of baingan bharta using raw ingredients. It is sometimes called Muttabal too but let me tell you Muttaba is a much spicier version of Baba Ghanoush. It’s a cold dip used with pita triangles. In Syria and Lebanon, baba ghanoush is a starter or appetizer; in Egypt it is mostly served as a side dish or salad.In the traditional method, the eggplant is first roasted in an oven for approximately 30 to 90 minutes (depending on the size of the eggplant) until the skin appears almost burnt and the eggplant begins to collapse. The softened flesh is scooped out, squeezed or salted to remove excess water, and is then pureed with the tahini. There are many variants of the recipe, especially the seasoning. Seasonings include garlic, lemon juice, ground cumin, salt, mint, and flat parsley or cilantro. When served on a plate or bowl, it is traditional to drizzle the top with olive oil. It is often garnished with pomegranate seeds too.
I made my version of Baba Ghanoush using one roasted eggplant, roasting it directly on the flame. After peeling the skin and scooping out the flesh add 1tsp tahini, 1finely chopped onion, 1finely chopped tomato, 4cloves of garlic finely chopped, 4-5tsp hung curds, salt to taste and 2tbsp olive oil. Mix properly and while mixing keep pressing to get a smooth finish. Finally add some chopped parsley or cilantro and before serving drizzle some more olive oil.
This dip serves 5-6 people.
Pita/ Pitta is a slightly leavened wheat pocket bread which is flat, round or oval.The pita dough is a soft dough like that of the Naan. The water in the dough steams up and rises forming the ‘pocket’, hence it is called the Pita bread. This bread is very popular in the middle eastern, Mediterranean or Baklan cuisines. Pita is used to scoop sauces or dips such as Hummus and to wrap Kebabs, Gyros or Falafel in the manner of sandwiches. Most pita are baked at high temperatures (450 °For 232 °C), causing the flattened rounds of dough to puff up dramatically. When removed from the oven, the layers of baked dough remain separated inside the deflated pita, which allows the bread to be opened into pockets, creating a space for use in various dishes.
The Pita is made using refined flour but I have replaced some portion with whole wheat flour. To make about 10 Pita breads of 5-6inch diameter and 1/4inch thickness you will need about 600gms flour (I replaced 100gms with whole wheat flour), to this add proofed yeast (dissolve 1tbsp dry active yeast in 3tbsp warm water with a pinch of sugar), 1tsp sugar, salt to taste and about 300-350ml warm water to knead a soft dough. Knead the dough well till it does not stick on the palm. Apply 1tsp olive oil and let it rest for 30mins or till it doubles in volume. Divide it into 10-12 equal portions and roll using minimum flour (excess flour dries the Pita). Bake it for 4mins on 250C till the Pita puffs and then turn and bake it for a minute more. Do not brown the Pita bread it should be just about cooked.
I also make the Pita on the griddle and find that a much simpler method to make. In fact it’s easier to puff the Pita on the griddle. The pita which did not puff were cut and baked to make chips to go with baba ghanoush and hummus.
Falafel are popular Arabic fritters made either with chickpeas or fava beans or both. These normally find there place in wraps along with salad and dips. They make excellent street food and at the same time can also be served as starters for parties. I made my version with chickpeas only…
To make the Falafel take 2cups cooked chickpeas, 1/2cup flat parsley or cilantro, 4-5garlic cloves, 1tbsp tahini, salt to taste, 1tsp each of cumin, coriander and chili powder, 1onion finely chopped and 3-4tbsp corn starch or plain flour. In a food processor blend together coarsely all the ingredients except onion and cornstarch. To the coarse mix add onions and corn starch. Make small flat patty and deep fry till golden in color. Remove on kitchen towel.
Finally I used the Pita to make the wraps which was our meal. To make the wraps, cut the Pita bread into halves to show the pocket. Apply tahini on the wall. Insert the lettuce, falafel, sliced onions, tomatoes and cucumber and some hummus. The wraps are ready to eat. The Pita wraps have become a popular street food and hence sending it to my event ‘Only’ Street Foods of The World hosted by Archana of Mad Scientist’s Kitchen. I’m also reposting Ram Laddoo and Dakor Na Methi Gota for the same event.