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 Dugid.
I was so excited when I saw this month’s challenge and what was to be my first Daring Cooks Challenge, Mezze. The mandatory items which had to be made were pita and hummus, neither of which I have actually ever made from scratch. Michele also provided a few non-mandatory recipes we could play with as well.
I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what to make to go with the pita and hummus and ended up with a lovely mezze of pita, hummus, falafels, baba ghanouj, kafta, toum and a tomato/onion salad. I also purchased some beautiful persian feta which I dumbly forgot to put out.
The pita bread was the item I was most worried about, I was having anxiety attacks that they would not poof up. I felt very confident with the rest of the items on the menu, but it is funny where things can go wrong, always the most unexpected places.
- 2 teaspoons of dry yeast
- 2½ cups of lukewarm water
- 5 - 6 cups of plain flour (you can substitute a combination of alternative flours if you cannot digest wheat)
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- In a large bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve and then stir in 3 cups of the flour (a cup at a time). Stir 100 times, about a 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 and then add more flour (one cup at a time) until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 - 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 it rise until at least double in size, approximately 1 - 1½ hours.
- Place pizza stone, or two small baking sheets on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 2cm (1 inch) gap all around between the stone/sheets and the oven walls to allow the heat to circulate. Preheat oven to 230C (450F).
- Gently punch down the dough. Divide 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 20/23cm (8/9 inches) in diameter and less than 5mm (1/4 inch) thick. Keep the rolled out dough covered until read to bake, do not stack!
- Place 2 circles of dough, or more if you can fit it, on to the stone/sheets and bake for 2 -3 minutes, or until the 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 warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled out ones. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
My notes: I did not have a pizza stone so just used a flat baking tray without sides, it worked fine (big sigh of relief there!!). Due to the amount of pita this recipe produces I used a beach towel not a kitchen towel, wrapped them up well and they stayed warm and soft until they were needed a few hours later. I also put some in the freezer that were left over, they freeze well.
- 1½ cups of chickpeas (either soak dried ones overnight in cold water or well drained canned ones)
- 6 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 2 - 3 cloves of garlic
- big pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons of tahini
- flavourings as desired and to taste
- Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1½ hours, or until tender. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
- Puree the beans in a food processor (or use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
My notes: I used canned chickpeas and mashed with a potato masher. I did not add any other flavours.
The recipe I used for my falafels was based on the one provided by Michele, but I added more parsley and corriander as well as a few more spices. Initially I did not add enough flour to the mixture as I ended up with oil soaked falafels which were falling apart. This was easily remedied by adding a bit more flour.
I was a lucky girl at Christmas and received the Food Safari cookbook from my lovely bro and sis in-law. It was the first time I had a chance to use it, so I used Katya Faraj’s recipe for Baba Ghanouj and Fouad Sayed’s recipe for Kafta fromthe book. I did alter the Kafta recipe as I don’t eat lamb and used soley minced beef.
The Toum recipe was one from my fellow blogger Fouad Kassab of The Food Blog. This is where things went slightly wrong. I had fun making this, but managed to blow out my food processor and spill 2 cups of oil all over my kitchen. Not sure if you realise how far 2 cups of oil can spread and how much a pain in the ass it is to clean up. Ended up using my hand held processor which was smoking by the end of it. Also ended up with Toum in my hair, across the kitchen and all sorts of places. It was just not playing nice with me and I was having one of the moments. The end result was worth it. Warning it makes a hell of a lot but it keeps really well.
Tomato and onion salad was basic. Tomatoes, onions, parsley, mint, lemon juice, olive oil and sumac.
This was a great challenge, and I will be making my own pita from now on when I have the time. The result is just so different from the store bought product. Hummus was easy, next time I will make it from dried chickpeas and see if there is a major difference.