Nut- and seed-free meze

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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.

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