Mezze Legend - Staff Home Testing!
There are many different stages involved in putting together a brand new cookbook - after researching and coming up with masses of initial ideas, these are then whittled down and cooked time and time again in our test kitchen, with little tweaks being made to get each one just right. Then, when the recipe selection has been finalised, it’s time for the fun bit - the chefs pass over the baton (or apron?) to the rest of the Spicery team!
Staff testing is a brilliant way to make sure that the recipes run successfully when cooked by people who aren’t familiar with them in normal home kitchens, and obtaining feedback from this process therefore allows us to iron out any creases. But as well as being a practical and useful part of new book development, it’s also just a really great chance for the whole team to get to enjoy the new recipes. And, of course, it allows all of the lovely customers who have pre-ordered this kit to get a sneak peek at some of the delicious dishes they can look forward to!
Georgia - Grilled Halloumi with Chilli Honey, Pitta breads, Aioli (Garlic dip) and Fattoush (Salad with pieces of baked pitta)
Georgia: The halloumi was out of this world! I’d never really tried topping halloumi with any other ingredients before (always just eating it grilled on its own), but combining the saltiness of the cheese with sweet honey and a touch of spice really transformed it. It looked just as good as it tasted, too, as it had a lovely sticky glaze and golden colour.
The pittas were so soft and pillowy - a million times nicer than those you buy in the shop, and incredibly easy to make too! Watching them puff up in the oven is really exciting - my one piece of advice, though: don’t make these on one of the hottest days of the year like I did, as you have to turn your oven up to max heat!
The fattoush was lovely and fresh, and I used the pittas I’d made myself to bake and add to the salad. I also ‘raised my game’ by adding pomegranate seeds which was a great touch as it made the dish look bejewelled and added a pop of colour.
The aioli was really delicious too, though the garlic flavour is very intense - you’ll be keeping everyone at a distance the next day (worth it though).
Samer - Mermez (Tunisian one-pot stew), Yogurt aioli, Harissa (North African chilli sauce) and Turkish bread
Samer: I really enjoyed all of these dishes, but the Mermez stood out the most for me as it had a very interesting combination of spices and flavours - there was a lot going on, but the result was really enjoyable!
Marc - Yogurtlu kebab (kebab topped with baked pitta, tomato and yogurt), Mujadara (rice and lentils with caramelised onions), Cabbage slaw with pickled green chillies and Kebab chilli sauce
Marc: The yogurtlu kebab was really delicious, it looked very appetising too, and was a great dish to share. We might have preferred something with a bit more of a heat kick, but if you’ve got a milder taste, then this would be perfect for you! The instructions were very clear and helpful, so it was easy to follow.
The mujadara was a big hit! Don’t be put off by its brown appearance (which is to be expected from the combination of ingredients), the taste is great and it worked really well with the other dishes.
The cabbage slaw was a really nice side dish to have with the kebab, and the addition of chillies made it look more visually exciting. The simplicity of this recipe was great as it gave me more time to focus on the other dishes I was cooking.
Jess - Gozleme (flatbread stuffed with spinach and cheese), Shepherd’s salad, and M’hencha (coiled, filled filo pastry dessert)
Jess: I followed the ‘raise your game’ instructions for the Gozleme by adding a paste made from tomato puree, spices and olive oil before adding the spinach filling - they were delicious! I also used bread flour instead of plain flour, which worked really well. I found that they were easier to cut once they’d cooled fully!
The Shepherd’s Salad - which is a simple mix of crunchy, raw veg, chopped walnuts and herbs, dressed with spices, olive oil and lemon juice - was really easy to make. It tasted magnificent, and looked great too!
The M’hencha filling was really tasty - the timing wasn’t quite right which led to the finished dish looking pale, and I used a bit too much pastry (as the instructions were a little unclear), but both of these issues have been adjusted on the recipe now! It swirled really nicely, which looks very impressive and impactful when you serve it up.
Ailbhe - Batata Harra (crispy, spiced potatoes), Merguez Kebab and Yogurt Aioli
Ailbhe: The methods were clear and easy to follow on all of these dishes, and the prep and cook times were definitely realistic too, which made it easy to plan the meal and prepare it all without getting flustered or stressed!
It was all really tasty, but my highlight has to be the potatoes - these were super delicious, and looked great too. You could tell they were going to taste amazing just from looking at them!
I added some lettuce on the side just to add a bit more veg to the plate, but otherwise everything went really well together and all tasted fantastic.
Kelly - Kisir (bulgur wheat salad), Yogurt sauce, Lavash (Armenian flatbread), Chicken shawarma (thin pieces of seasoned chicken stacked in layers), Cabbage slaw with pickled green chillies and M’Hencha
Kelly: The chicken shawarma tasted great - I marinated my chicken the day before to save myself some time too, which was a useful hack. It looked fab, and having it with lots of sides and bread was a great dinner to eat in the garden. I’m so looking forward to doing this again for lots of people as it was so easy!
The kisir was delicious - it had a really great flavour (which still tasted just as good the next day) and the use of tomato puree gave it an amazing bright red colour, so it looked stunning too. There was a slight issue with the timing that meant the bulgur wheat did not fully cook the first time, but this has been amended on the recipe now.
The lavash was really enjoyable to both cook and eat. They really couldn’t have been simpler to make - everyone will be able to do this!
The yogurt sauce was fresh and worked really well with the whole meal.
The cabbage slaw is so so so good. I really love this! The method was very clear to follow, and I really like the method of pickling your own chilli and using it to make the dressing. It’s a slaw that will now always be in my collection of go-to crunchy sides.
The m’hencha is an absolute winner, I gave four different people a slice and everyone LOVED it. The method is clear - it took a few times of re-reading to be sure that I knew what I was doing, but once it clicks, it’s great! The ‘raise your game’ suggestion was to add rose water, which I didn’t have, but I added rose petals instead and they were a really pretty touch.
Kayleigh - Beans with garlic, lemon and cumin, Laffa (bread), Shepherd’s salad, Chilli & garlic pickles
Kayleigh: Everything was delicious but my favourite component was definitely the beans - you wouldn’t believe that such a humble ingredient could be transformed into something so delicious. This is now one of my favourite ways to eat beans and I want to eat these beans every day!
Everything looked vibrant and fresh, my whole family really enjoyed the meal (my dad was also particularly impressed with the beans!). We’re all vegan and this was a really tasty vegan spread!
Adam - Moussaka (baked dish of lamb mince, aubergine and potato in a creamy sauce) and Fattoush
Adam: It took me slightly longer than stated to prepare the moussaka (although I think that was mainly due to the impact of the onion on my eyes!) - but the result was more than worth it! For somebody who is usually more of a liker than a lover of lamb, the festival of flavours this dish contains transformed my dining experience and marked a triumphant moment in my new kitchen. What is even better is that I was the only person eating it so I was able to enjoy it four times! Serves 4? Or serves 1, 4 times? It looked cracking, and was asking to be eaten!