I am a huge fan of a Mezze. Lots of little small plates all gathered together with different flavours and ingredients ready for a feast to be shared with friends and family. And for me that is what food is all about. It is there to bring people together over delicious food, finding new tastes and flavours and experimenting with different ingredients. Yet while a Mezze is typically an Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern style of eating it doesn’t have to be just limited to this. Last year on a trip to San Francisco it was seen as a slightly more normal way to eat in downtown restaurants.Menus catered for everyone to be able to order a few plates of food and simply put them in the middle of the table to share. It is more relaxed, and in my opinion, a more sophisticated way to eat than limiting yourself to a three course meal while staring admiringly at your partners better option for a main, simply hoping for a little mouthful while your stuck with the one main dish for the evening. I love the little plates to take on many more ingredients and flavours.
While in Paxos this summer we were at one of my favourite restaurants on the Island, Vassilis. One night I suggested to order a few different plates from their starter and main selections and share them in the middle of the table, and the waitress loved us for it. It is how all the Greeks were eating and is much more of a celebration of all the fine food on offer rather than a rigid starter, main and dessert. And as much as there will always be a time and a place for a three course meal I can’t help but wonder if more of us would benefit from eating the Mezze way.
These Oregano and Thyme Meatballs with a Tahini Yoghurt are definitely leaning more towards the Middle Eastern style flavours, my favourite way to cook and is how much of my Mezze style is inspired by. They go so well with the Honey and Thyme Baked Feta and Kolokithokeftedes (Greek Fried Courgette Balls). I also like to serve them with some pitta and eat them on their own, drizzled with all the yoghurt and stuffed inside the bread ready for a healthy and more authentic version of a kebab! My only regret with this recipe is that it is not made with lamb. The beef is still delicious (and a lot of people prefer to avoid the strong taste of lamb) but for that more authentic taste lamb would be better but unfortunately is quite difficult to get hold of in Germany!
- 1 small pot plain greek yoghurt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 500g minced beef
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- Few sprigs fresh thyme (leave picked)
- 1 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp tahini paste
- 1 medium tomato (roughly chopped)
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- Fresh parsley (roughly torn) to serve
- 1 tsp paprika
- Salt/ pepper
- Olive oil
- In a small bowl mix together the yoghurt, half of the lemon juice, half of the garlic and a little salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Place in the fridge until needed.
- In a mixing bowl add the minced beef, oregano, thyme, breadcrumbs, half the crushed garlic and half of the lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper. Using your hands mix all the ingredients and then roll into about tbsp size balls.
- Heat a dash of olive oil in a frying pan and once hot add the meatballs, cooking them on each side until just browned. Plate them up and put to one side. In the same pan add the tomatoes, puree and paprika. Season with a little black pepper and mix well and cook on a gentle heat for 2-3 mins.
- Add the meatballs back to the pan with the tomatoes and cook on a gentle heat for just under 10 mins, until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked through.
- Plate up the meatballs and garnish with a little fresh parsley and serve with yoghurt.