This is the second of my recipe/reviews which utilises the Christmas gift from Joseph and Leah (my brother and sister-in-law, respectively).
In case you missed the first one (it’s the Sri Lankan beef one), here’s a quick rundown.
For Christmas, Joseph and his darling wife, who chose the gift (there you go Leah, I have now credited you), got me a subscription to The Spicery, which is an online company which sends globally inspired recipes and the requisite spices for the dishes in the post once a month. I would definitely recommend it, it’s been perfect for a little inspiration as well as forming the basis for a lovely food evening on a couple of occasions so far.
Anyway, this month the pack was for a Lebanese Mezze platter. I actually chose this one because I wasn’t 100% sure what it entailed. I was planning on Googling it, but I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.
When it arrived in the post, I had a look through the packet and felt a comforting familiarity with the spices. There wasn’t really anything I hadn’t used before, which was one of the concerns I had when I first got this gift. I’m a fairly adventurous cook, but I’m quite a lazy one too. I don’t want too many plates spinning or balls in the air when I’m making a meal. Essentially, I don’t want to make a meal of making a meal.
I then put it on top of my microwave along with my cookbooks and thought “I’ll get to it later”.
“Later” was about 3 weeks later…
I recently wandered up to Edinburgh to see the Noodle (this is her blog) who is my ladyfriend. We had plans to go to a concert on the Sunday, so we needed something to fill the time on the Saturday which was cost effective (pron. cheap). I thought it would be a great idea to take up my Spicery gift and we could make it together. It would be a fun way to spend time in the kitchen together and we both love platter style meals, so it was win-win. Also, the ingredients we had to purchase were extremely cheap, it was all cauliflower and cucumber type stuff.
So, on Saturday afternoon, we took a long stroll around Edinburgh to pick up bits to make the recipe. We went to the Grassmarket and grabbed some beetroot and enough parsley to start a small-scale garnish revolution. The market stall owner was your typical cheeky chappy, but it was a great change from just walking into a supermarket and being met with autonomous faces who seem to genuinely not want to be there. He suggested we could freeze the parsley, which led to a brief exchange about parsley butter and how good it is with fish.
In case you were unsure, for parsley butter all you need is:
Ok, that list was a little bit too obvious, carrying on…
You need the butter at about room temperature, but not melted. Spreadably soft, I would call it.
Finely chop the parsley, including a few of the stalks.
Mix it into the butter, really mixed in.
Get an ice tray and fill each… slot? cubicle? receptacle? what are they called?… whatever, fill them with the butter/parsley and put it in the freezer.
Next time you’re frying fish or potatoes, instead of oil, just pop one of these in the pan. It’s amazing.
Back to the platter.
We got all of our ingredients (except we forgot tomatoes), wandered back towards home and made our plans to make our incredible platter of food.
The spanner in the works was the fact that we stopped for a beer and a burger. I’ll tell you how good it was in another post; but, suffice it to say, it set our timetable back. We ate it at around 6pm, so we weren’t even thinking about food until 9pm.
This is where our naivety came into play…
I honestly thought I could pull together a full Lebanese Mezze platter in an hour. Then we could sit down and play Life (the boardgame, not a sad existential exercise where we ponder on what we’ve achieved so far and whether it’s all worth it). For clarity, here is what I was attempting to make:
- Cauliflower dip
- Roasted spiced carrots
- Tahini dip
- Beetroot dip
- Flatbread (from scratch) with zaatar seasoning
- Yoghurt-marinated chicken (this was an addition on our part as I needed some sort of meat with my meal)
The chicken alone takes about 3 hours to properly marinate. So I started off on the wrong foot. Then there’s the fact that beetroot takes about an hour to cook. It was a gross misjudgement of allocated time. Which is why I did the prep work on the Saturday evening and we ended up eating chocolate pringles and crisps, drinking amazing wine and I lost 2 games of Life.
On the Sunday, we were going to see Einaudi in concert. If you haven’t heard of him, I cannot recommend him enough. Although, you will have heard his music. Anytime a TV show wants a moment to feel a little bit more poignant they will play one of his incredible songs. He’s a contemporary classical composer. I’m not completely sure what that means, but I know it sounds amazing.
How this pertains to the platter is that we were undecided as to what to do after the concert. We decided to cook everything before we left so that we wouldn’t be tempted to get a takeaway and we could come back and relax. When I say we, what I mean is that we inadvertently had a sort of relay system. Noodle napped on Saturday evening while I did the prep work and I napped on Sunday afternoon while she added the finishing touches. It turned out to be a wonderfully synchronised affair.
After the concert, we really wanted to come home and sit on a surface which wasn’t deliberately designed to bruise our posteriors. So we came back, grilled the chicken and baked the flatbread. It had taken 2 days, but we were finally ready to enjoy our platter/feast.
It was worth the wait.
Everything we had made tasted amazing and each dish complemented one another perfectly. The earthy flavour of the beetroot dip was perfectly in harmony with the tangy tahini dip (especially when they were both piled on top of the fresh, hot flatbread), yoghurt chicken and honey spiced carrots are a match made in heaven. And the tabbouleh was just a delightfully refreshing addition which transformed it from what was essentially a deconstructed sandwich into a proper meal.
The cauliflower dip was so nice we just ate it with a spoon.
We ate until we were stuffed and then we did the typical “Just one more bite”. We would grab another slice of flatbread and create another combination of flavours. I can’t be bothered to do the maths, but with just 7 ingredients there are a large number of possible permutations. You could have a different mouthful with every bite and by the time you’re full, you still wouldn’t have tried them all.
This was an incredible meal and, despite my poor time management, I would call it a resounding success.
The great thing about The Spicery packs is that they not only send the spices and a shopping list, they also tell you exactly what was in it. So when we come to make this again (which I bloody well will) I know it will be just as good as the last time. I may add a few flourishes here and there; but all in all, this is one recipe I am more than happy to follow to the letter.