Hummus, kibeh, fattoush and more dishes you need to know about
Time Out Bahrain staff
Mezze is the term used for little hot and cold appetizers usually served in Middle Eastern cuisine. They can be served for any meal and the tradition is meant to unite people around the table in a spirit of sharing. The term itself has origins from Greek, Persian and Turkish roots; all essentially implying tasting or little snacks. In most Arabic restaurants, the menu will include staple mezze dishes, as well as variations depending on the cuisine type. But the custom of mezze-style eating actually originated in Lebanon more than 1,800 years ago and we’ve enlisted the help of a Lebanese guide, Chef Ali, to tell us what’s involved in our favourite dishes.
Chef Ali’s 101
Hummus contains boiled chickpeas which have been pureed and then mixed together with tahini sauce, fresh lemon juice, salt and a dash of cold water. Hummus should always be served with a pure olive oil and can be sprinkled with fried pine nuts for some added texture. It is important to use the best quality tahina sauce as this affects the flavour.
Kibeh is essentially oval ‘meat balls.’ I use beef mincemeat and a dough which are mixed together and put to one side. Then lamb mincemeat is pan fried with onion and pine nuts. The dough is then stuffed with the lamb meat and shaped into oval balls, it is then deep fried. The combination of the beef and the lamb mince ensure the outside is extra crispy and the inside moist and juicy.
Makanek are delicious mini lamb sausages with Arabic spices such as cloves and pepper which have been fried with pomegranate sauce.
Kibbeh Nayeh is actually raw meat. Lamb leg is the best meat to use and is blended in a mixer and then mixed with cracked wheat, salt, white pepper and cumin. The dish is then garnished with mint leaves and raw onion. Traditionally people would spend hours mincing the lamb meat with a mortar and pestle, ensuring the meat was perfectly combined and had a silky smooth texture.
Fattet Laban is made with a base of crisp bread, with chickpeas and yoghurt topped with a combination of garlic and coriander which has been cooked in ghee and then sprinkled with fried pine nuts. There are lots of types of fattet, however fattet laban is the original version, now chicken and other meats are sometimes incorporated in to the dish.
Fattoush is a very well-known salad with a mix of vegetables including lettuce, cucumber, tomato, parsley, mint, radish, spring onions, water cress and fried bread mixed with pomegranate sauce and olive oil, topped with Sumac.
Eggplant salad grilled chopped eggplant, mint leaves, parsley, spring onions and tomato with olive oil and lemon.
Chicken Liver is a signature dish at many Lebanese restaurants, it’s is cooked in pomegranate sauce and seasoned with white and sweet pepper and lemon juice.