Nut- and seed-free meze
A meze- style platter is a fabulous way to begin a meal – it looks both abundant and appealing while feeling informal.
Inviting guests to help themselves to the food encourages conversation and interaction, and thanks to the array of little dishes, there should be something for everyone to enjoy.
Apart, that is, from those with a nut or seed allergy. After all, with toasted pine nuts in fattoush, tabbouleh dressed with pistachios, bowls filled with muhammara ( red pepper and walnut dip) and dukkah-dusted labneh, nuts and seeds abound.
For anyone with a seed or nut allergy, store-bought or restaurant-prepared hummus is off the menu. This needn’t be the case for a home-made version though.
Tahini (ground sesame-seed paste) is a key ingredient in hummus, but it is entirely possible to produce a smooth, creamy, delicious variation without it. What becomes imperative is that the rest of the ingredients are top-notch, which means using good-quality olive oil, super-fresh lemons and, ideally, freshly cooked chickpeas. Tahini gives hummus an earthy, slightly bitter flavour and adds to the creamy texture.To make up for its absence, add a little baking soda to the water you soak and cook the chickpeas in, as this helps them to soften and break down.
When you blend the mixture, add a couple of extra tablespoons of olive oil (for a silky-smooth end result, try co- There are plenty of great things about the firm, chewy wheat grain known as freekeh: it is high in protein and fibre, inexpensive, easy to use and versatile. Freekeh with chicken, a popular Middle Eastern dish, is a great main course – it is tasty, feels celebratory and can be prepared in advance.
But what if you or one of your guests is on a gluten- free diet? Before you discard the idea of serving juicy, poached- then- roasted poultry on a spiced wholegrain base, consider following your usual recipe (checking the ingredients for gluten of course), but swap the freekeh for a gluten-free alternative. Quinoa, nutty red rice or a mixture of the two work brilliantly.
For this variation, treat the replacements the same as you would freekeh: sautéed in butter or oil with spices and chopped onion, then simmered in stock until tender. The water the chicken was poached in is often used. If you opt for ready-made stock, check if it is gluten-free.