Daring Cooks February Challenge: Mezze

The 2010 February Daring Bakers 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 Dugid.

To be honest, I'm not so fond about middle eastern food. Lot's of the things used there I don't like, for example dates, and especially chick peas. I'm fine with pita bread, so I decided to cook things additionally which I would actually eat. One recipe was a Turkish dish for chicken in a walnut sauce (two things I definitively like) and the other one a middle eastern recipe for a salad with avocado and citrus fruits. Both I found in a long forgotten book deep into my bookshelves, called "The essential Mediterranian cookbook" by Wendy Stephen. My first batch of bread dough was a mess because the dough was fluid, so I had to adjust the amount of water for my second try and reduced it to 360 ml of water which worked fine.

Pita Bread - Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
  • 12 g dry yeast
  • 2.5 cups of water (for my second batch I used 360 ml)
  • 500 g flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
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.
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 1 1/2 hours.
 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 (230 °C).
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.
 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.

Hummus - Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
  • 300 g of chickpeas (canned)
  • 90 ml lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled an mashed
  • a big pinch of salt
  • 50 g peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • one handful of dried tomatoes, chopped
Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding as needed until you have a smooth paste.Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Cerkes tavugu (Chicken in walnut sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil
  • four chicken breasts (with bones)
  • one large onion, chopped
  • two bars of celery, chopped into large pieces
  • one carrot, chopped
  • one bay leave
  • four sprigs parsley
  • one sprig thyme
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro seeds
  • salt and pepper
  • 250 g walnuts, roasted
  • two slices toast, crust removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed
Put chicken, onion, celery, carrot, bay leave, parsley, thyme, peppercorns and cialntro seeds into a pot and add water (about one litre) until everything is covered. Cook for about 20 minutes until the chicken is done. 
Meanwhile rost paprika and cayenne pepper in a pan until they start to smell, add the walnut oil and set aside. Mash the walnuts into your kitchen machine (keep some for decoration). Add the toast, garlic and the flavoured oil. 
Strain the chicken and vegetables through a sieve and fill the broth back into the pot, cook until the fluid is reduced to halv. When ready, fill into a jug. Remove skin and bones of the breasts and tear the meat into small pieces, season with salt and pepper. 
Add some of the broth (about 250 ml) to the walnut mixture, puree until smoth and put back into the pot, adding the meat. Cook for another five minutes and season if necessary.

Slat avocado ve pri hada (Salat with avocado and citrus fruits)

  • one grapefruit, peeled and cut into filets
  • two oranges, peeled and cut into filets
  • two avocados, sliced into 1 cm thick pieces
  • 90 g of salad (rocket or lamb's lettuce)
  • one tablespoon mint, chopped
  • one teaspoon orange zest
  • one tablespoon orange juice
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red vinegar
  • half a tablespoon dijon mustard
  • one tablespoon sugar
  • salt and pepper
In a large bowl, mix the avocado and citrus fruits with the salad. In another bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing until combined (I usually fill everthing into a clean screw top jar and shake). Pour the dressing over the sald and sprinkle with the mint.

So finally, here is my ready assembled plate:


Wic hat gesagt…

what stunning pictures of absolutely delicious looking food.
if I ever again have a family free weekend I will try the chicken.

Anonym hat gesagt…

The chicken in walnut sauce sounds divine!!! When I made the pita, my dough was fluid, too, and I kept adding flour, more flour, even more flour. Instead of 5-6 cups I needed about 9 cups!!! But I DID enjoy the challenge a lot and discovered some new really good flavors!

Audax hat gesagt…

SO many wonderful looking items I really like your well browned pita bread perfection and the chicken in wallnut sauce sounds delicious. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Lisa Michelle hat gesagt…

I love how you went off the beaten path for some of the dishes served with your beautiful pitas (that chicken in walnut sauce is calling to me0! Gorgeous photos too! Mazing job all around!

Michele hat gesagt…

Thank you so much for cooking along with me this month! Your food looks just beautiful and your photography is just amazing!