Thursday, 21 August 2014

Kibbeh, Falafel and Tabbouleh Mezze

One of the major issues with Steve playing cricket at the weekends is that it is nigh on impossible to estimate what time he will be barrelling through the front door in the evenings, hot, hungry and thirsty.
I've learned from experience that it is always useful to have something prepared for dinner that can be ready within 10 minutes, max, of this occurring.  A roast just won't cut it as you can guarantee that it will either only be ready an hour after he gets home, or it will be dry and overdone if the game runs long.
Mezze plates are fab for this - I can prep earlier in the day, do a little bit of last minute cooking and plate up before he has a chance to get his whites off.

Mezze is basically Arabic tapas - a selection of small finger food dishes that you can pick and mix a plateful from.  It is so easy to do and surprisingly filling - a platter like this will easily feed 3-4 people (I frequently do one as a starter for dinner parties).  As I have shown this before, I'm not going to go into the details of everything that appears on this one.  What I will do though is show you my recipes for Lamb Kibbeh (little lamb meatballs mixed with Bulgar wheat), Falafel (fried chickpea patties) and Tabbouleh (a Bulgar wheat salad).
I can make the kibbeh, tabbouleh and falafel earlier in the day (or the day before) and just leave them in the fridge until I'm ready to cook.  Then I just squeeze some lemon juice and olive oil over the tabbouleh, quick fry the kibbeh and falafel and we are ready to go! 

I normally start with the kibbeh and follow one of The Spicery's recipes for it - it's a fail safe.  They are succulent little balls with a bit of a 'bitty' texture inside due to the Bulgar wheat, and the spices just complement and enhance the flavour of the lamb. They are not dry in the slightest due to the quick cooking time, and they also make great little fridge raiders if you have any left over!  For about 20 little torpedo's you will need:

500g minced lamb
1 large, coarsely grated white onion
1 crushed clove of garlic
150g Bulgar wheat
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tsp toasted cumin
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
good sprinkling of sea salt

All you need to do is mash the whole list above into a smooth, pliable mess and then mould small handful's of the mixture into little torpedo shaped balls.  Allow these to sit in the fridge for at least half an hour before attempting to fry them.  When you are ready to go, heat a little oil in a large pan then fry them, turning them frequently so that they are brown all over.  They cook quickly; by the time you have browned them on all sides they will be cooked through.
Next up is the Tabbouleh; recipe adapted from The Spicery.  This is a fragrant, herby salad where the parsley and mint is as important as the Bulgar wheat and tomato.  Originally a Levantine dish, it can now be found all over the world and even has a national day (1st July) dedicated to it!   This makes a generous portion, and is great in lunchboxes with some pitta bread and a squeeze of fresh lemon the next day.

150g Bulgar wheat
1 tbsp tomato puree
A large bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
A large bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 large white onion, finely chopped
250g cherry or vine tomatoes, halved
A couple of spring onions, thinly sliced
1 crushed clove of garlic
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, lightly toasted
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp mint
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp all spice
Pinch of salt
Olive Oil
Pour 225ml of boiling water over the Bulgar wheat with the tomato puree, garlic and herbs and spices (not the fresh parsley or mint), cover and leave to sit for 10 minutes

Remove the lid, fluff up the Bulgar wheat with a fork, then mix in the fresh mint and parsley, onion, tomatoes and spring onions.
Just before serving squeeze the juice of half a lemon and a drizzle of olive oil over the top (Carluccio's lemon olive oil is superb for this) and add a bit of salt.  You are good to go!
(Ignore the tahini in the picture above- I still can't get this right and this batch just got binned!)
Finally the falafel.  If you have an electric mixer these are ridiculously easy to do.  I tend to think of falafel as fried balls of hummus - not strictly speaking accurate I know but it makes sense to me!  These ones have a texture similar to very soft potato cakes and a delicate flavour.  They are not dry in the slightest as I find shop bought ones can be.  You are supposed to serve them inside a pitta bread, but I prefer just to dunk them in hummus and drape a pickled anchovy over the top.  This will make about 15.

1 tin chickpeas in water (about 400ml tin)
3 spring onions (chopped into thirds)
1 large clove of garlic
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Large handful of fresh parsley
1 egg
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
50g plain flour (plus extra for coating the falafel in before frying)
Vegetable oil (for frying)

Stick all the ingredients in the blender (apart from the vegetable oil and the extra flour for frying) and blend
You should have a mix that looks fairly revolting and not dissimilar to dog sick.  Just go with it; it will taste better than it looks at this stage.
Using wet hands (it will stop the mixture sticking to you), form into patties and leave in the fridge for a half hour or so to firm up.  When you are ready to cook, roll the patties in flour and fry in a large pan until golden brown and crispy on all sides but soft in the centre.
Serve on a big platter with lots of other nibbles, give everyone a small plate and just dig in.
L-R falafel, kibbeh, olives, griddle halloumi, salami, Parma ham, pickled anchovies, tabbouleh, hummus, toasted pita bread, cream cheese stuffed pimento's
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