Daring Cooks February: Mezze

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.
This was a really creative challenge with only two mandatory parts: pita bread and hummus. Then it was up to the Daring Cooks to fill their mezze tables with tabbouleh, falafel, baba ganouj, lebneh, feta cheese, olives and whatever else Middle Eastern finger food they could think of. Fun!

I recently had a fabulous mezze meal at a Lebanese restaurant in Stockholm, and was looking forward to being inspired for the Daring Cooks challenge. But come the day of mezze making, I wasn't in the mood for tons of little dishes (going to the Middle Eastern supermarket and buying their ready-made stuff felt like cheating) and then there was the usual time constraints resulting from the usual procrastination, so I ended up a bit outside the box. But still, I hope, within the spirit of the challenge. My not-so-mezze mezze table ended up consisting of:
  • Tunsian lamb tagine with dried fruit
  • Orange salad with feta cheese and mint
  • Pita bread
  • Hummus
Let's start with the mandatory parts of the challenge, the pita bread and the hummus. The pita bread was easy to make, even if it took quite some time to roll it all out and bake it. It tasted real nice and I'm happy to have a reliable pita bread recipe now. The recipe makes a lot though, we got about 20 (more or less) round breads measuring about 15 cm in diameter. Next time I'll quarter the recipe if making just for the two of us.

I have to admit I took some liberties with the hummus (sorry!). When I worked in the kitchen at Kibbutz Hamaapil in Israel, I made loads of hummus and learned that tahine is not a necessary ingredient. What is necessary, however, is olive oil. So I omitted the tahine, added olive oil and also ended up forgetting the garlic. (Oups.) I served the hummus like we always did at Hamaapil: drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika powder.

The recipe for the Tunisian lamb tagine with dried fruit comes from the lovely book Citrusköket (the Citrus Kitchen) by Caroline Hofberg. I've made a few changes to the original recipe. It's a lovely, warm, spicy and fragrant stew that you can serve with couscous or bulgur, but we just ate it with pita bread and some thick yoghurt.

As a side dish I made a small salad with oranges, feta cheese and mint. These flavors work really well together and the colors are lovely.

Thank you Michele for a fun and creative challenge! Wanna see the other Daring Cooks creations and all of the recipes? Visit the Daring Kitchen where you will find the recipe archive and the blogroll. Our lovely host Michele has posted a lot of great mezze recipes on her website.

Tunisian lamb tagine with dried fruit
(adapted from Citrusköket by Caroline Hofberg)

500 g boneless lamb shoulder
100 g dried apricots
100 g dried figs
3/4 dl almonds, peeled
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 orange
1 small yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
½ g saffron
2 tsp paprika powder
1 cinnamon stick
1½ tbsp freshly grated ginger
1½ tbsp concentrated vegetable stock
5 dl water
1 tbsp cornstarch (Maizena)
1 tsp harissa
  1. Soak the dried apricots and figs in hot water.
  2. Roast the almonds in a dry pan until they get a little bit of color. Set aside until later. In the same pan, toast the cumin and coriander seeds and set aside.
  3. Peel the orange with a potato peeler (you want quite long bits of peel with as little of the bitter white stuff as possible). Juice the orange. Set aside peel and juice.
  4. Chop the onion and garlic finely.
  5. Cut the lamb shoulder into cubes about 3×3 cm. Fry them in some olive oil until they are a nice brown color.
  6. In a large pot, fry the onion and ginger carefully so that it becomes soft but doesn't get any color. Add the toasted cumin and coriander seeds, saffron, paprika, the cinnamon stick and the grated ginger. Fry for about a minute, stirring constantly.
  7. Add the meat and stock, water, orange peel and juice. Boil over low heat for 1–1½ hours.
  8. Drain the apricots and figs, cut them in smaller pieces and add them to the pot. Boil for another 20 minutes.
  9. Remove about ½–1 dl of the liquid from the pot and use it to dissolve the cornstarch. Pour it back, stir well and let the tagine thicken for about 5 minutes. Season with harissa. Add the almonds right before serving.

Orange salad with feta and mint

Cut a couple of oranges into fillets (segments without any white peel). For two, I used two small blood oranges and a larger regular orange. Crumble up some good feta cheese and sprinkle on top of the oranges. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, season with freshly ground black pepper, and, for the final touch, add some fresh mint leaves.

Pita Bread

Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 tsp regular dry yeast (12.1 grams)
2½ cups lukewarm water (591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (497-596 grams)
1 tbsp table salt (15 grams)
2 tbsp olive oil (29 ml)
  1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
  2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1½ hours.
  3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
  4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
  5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.


Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (301 grams)
2-2½ lemons, juiced (89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tbsp tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste. You can use sun-dried tomatoes, olives, roasted peppers etc.

  1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
  2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.


  1. it looks delicious. I love the salad maybe I will give it a try on a family free day.

  2. Wic: there's no better way to spoil yourself than with sweet filéd citrus fruits... :-)

    Just have to add (as the one who merely lent a hand or two and still got to enjoy it): this lamb casserole really is one of the best I ever had, the sweet fruit, orange and almond tastes just complements each other perfectly. Add to that the simple yet wonderful salad, and you can see why I'm a happily married man :-)

    Just wanted to add that this tasted heavenly, since Jenny didn't (in my opinion) emphasis that enough in the post... :-)

  3. The citrus salad looks great! Good job on the challenge!

  4. Ok, I don't like lamb..never did..BUT, I would eat that lamb tagine in a nano second! It looks and sounds so freakin' amazing! Beautiful mezze and perfect pita! Fantastic job all around!

  5. Thank you so much for cooking along with me. I love how creative you were with the recipes! Your food sounds really delicious.