The word Mezze – otherwise known as Muqabilat – is in essence a selection of small dishes served as starters to tickle your taste buds and kick start your appetite. The Mezze culture is that of relaxed food, where people get together and enjoy a variety of dishes (with or without alcohol) in a casual and laid-back atmosphere, all while being social and interacting with friends. The most significant characteristic about Mezze is that it is food to be shared with a group, and not meant to be ordered by plate for each individual. In the Middle East, you would get a variety of dishes that are placed in the middle of the dining table, from which each one takes out into their plates.
Mezze includes hot and cold varieties. It is served as the first course of the meal, usually followed by mixed grills, or other Main course options, then followed by Arabic desserts and fresh fruits. With that said, Mezze can often be a meal on its own! I, for instance, hardly ever want to eat anything else!
Culturally, Mezze is good food, good company and a superb time. It captures the essence of the social culture and how food is at it’s centre.
Raw meats are an essential part of the cold mezze section. There is the Kibbeh (aka Kubbeh), which is basically raw meat mixed with bulgur; there is also the fresh and raw lamb liver known as Sawda Niyeh, then there is also Habra, which is raw lean lamb meat. The options are endless and the flavours are Divine. These are normally served with pita bread, olive oil, salt and black pepper, fresh mint leaves and garlic paste. Then each one will mix in the flavours they like in their plates. These foods are among the most delightful foods to eat especially paired with Arak. I am getting hungry just thinking about this!
Since Mezze is a manifestation of how food is social, it is a fabulous way to go when entertaining at home. Making the food is not complex, and most of it is ‘make-ahead’ which allows you to actually entertain your guests, rather than be stuck in the kitchen all night. Try out this fabulous raw kibbeh recipe and find a plethora of easy and delicious Mezze recipes on this link.