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Meze – Part 2


Roasted Chicken Wings with Sumac, Lemon & Garlic

With an irresistible balance of spice, sweetness, and salt, and seared crispy skin, these chicken wings make a very enticing snack. They’re perfect as part of a meze meal or for a lazy dinner.

PREP : 25 minutes
COOK : 25 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, crushed
  • grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, plus 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
  • 1 pound chicken wings, cut into drumettes and wingettes
  • ¼ cup Greek-style plain yogurt, to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Mix together the oil, honey, garlic, sumac, salt, and lemon zest in a large roasting pan. Add the chicken and mix until well coated.
  2. Roast the chicken at the top of the oven for 25 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly charred with a crispy skin, shaking the pan halfway through cooking to turn the pieces. To check if the chicken is cooked through, push the tip of a sharp knife into a chicken piece; the meat should no longer be pink and the juices should be clear and piping hot.
  3. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the Greek yogurt and lemon wedges for squeezing over the chicken.

Cook’s tip : A chicken wing is comprised of the tip, drumette, and wingette. The tip is usually discarded, although in Asia it is often regarded as a delicacy. The wingette is the flat middle part and the drumette (which looks like a miniature drumstick) is the upper part. To separate them, wiggle the joint back and forth so you feel where it is connected, then cut through the “hinge” using the heel of the knife, pushing down hard.


Chicken Kabobs with Za’atar Dip

The meltingly soft marinated chicken contrasts wonderfully with the red onions and red bell peppers in these delicious, spicy kabobs. You will need eight wooden skewers for this recipe.

PREP : 20 minutes
MARINATE : 1 hour
COOK : 25 minutes

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • grated zest and juice of ½ unwaxed lemon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3½ tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes, crushed
  • 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 5½ ounces each), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into
  • 1-inch chunks
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Za’atar dip
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar spice
  1. Mix the garlic, lemon zest and juice, cumin, ginger, cayenne, turmeric, yogurt, and most of the salt together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix until well coated. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
  2. Meanwhile, soak eight wooden skewers in water for 20 minutes, then drain well. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil.
  3. Thread the chicken cubes onto the skewers, alternating with the red bell pepper and red onion chunks, and place them in the prepared roasting pan. If you have leftover onion and bell pepper, put them in the pan, too. Brush the chicken and vegetables with the oil, then roast at the top of the oven for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, golden, and slightly charred.
  4. For the dip, mix the oil and za’atar together in a small bowl.
  5. Let the kabobs rest for 5 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with the remaining salt, with the za’atar dip.

Cook’s tip : To grill the kabobs, heat a ridged grill pan over medium–high heat until hot. Lay the skewers in the pan and cook for 15–20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, golden, and slightly charred, turning regularly.


Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes with Pine Nuts, Feta & Parsley

Stuffed roasted vegetables are popular throughout the Middle East. These Turkish-inspired stuffed tomatoes are a perfect vegetarian option.

PREP : 15 minutes
COOK : 30 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 8 large tomatoes
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the red onion and garlic and cook for 5–10 minutes, or until translucent. Put into a large bowl and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, using a small, sharp knife, cut a 1-inch diameter circle around the stem of each tomato to form a lid. Using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard.
  3. Mix the feta, pine nuts, and parsley into the onion and garlic, and season with the salt and pepper. Stuff the tomatoes with this mixture, pressing it down well using the back of a spoon.
  4. Place a “lid” on each tomato and put in a shallow baking dish. Roast for 20 minutes, or until completely softened. Serve warm.

Cook’s tip : Red bell peppers are also good stuffed. Choose small bell peppers and remove the seeds, then soften them in the oven at 350°F for 5–10 minutes before filling and baking them.



Take your time when shaping the delicate outer kibbeh shell before stuffing it with spiced lamb or ground beef. It requires patience, but you will be rewarded with meltingly delicious meze.

PREP : 40 minutes
SOAK : 30 minutes
CHILL : 1 hour
COOK : 45 minutes
MAKES : 12

  • ¾ cup bulgur wheat
  • ½ onion, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • pinch of pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • Filling
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 8 ounces fresh ground lamb
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon Greek-style plain yogurt
  • pinch of sea salt flakes
  • pinch of pepper
  1. For the shell, rinse the bulgur wheat in several changes of water, then let it soak for 30 minutes. Drain well, squeeze out any excess water, then put into a food processor. Add the onion, meat, cumin, and pepper, then pulse until well mixed. Put into a bowl, cover, then chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  2. For the filling, toast the pine nuts in a skillet over low heat for 2–3 minutes. Put into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in the pan over medium–high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium–low, stir in the cinnamon, allspice, and cumin, and cook for 1–2 minutes, or until aromatic. Add the meat, increase the heat to medium–high, and cook for 10 minutes, or until well browned, breaking it up using a wooden spoon. Mix in the cilantro, toasted pine nuts, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Set aside to cool.
  4. For the shell, mix the salt into the bulgur mixture. (To check for seasoning, fry a little of the mixture until cooked.) Divide the mixture into 12 and roll into balls, using wet hands. Press each ball down gently over your thumb to form a deep “cup.” Using your thumb and index finger, and your other hand to rotate the cup, flatten out the sides as thinly as possible without breaking the shell.
  5. Fill each “cup” with a heaping tablespoon of the filling, then press the top closed, patting the mixture down into the shape of a lemon. Transfer to a plate. Repeat until you’ve made all the kibbeh, then cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until ready to cook.
  6. Pour the vegetable oil into a large, deep saucepan until no more than halfway full. Heat over medium heat for 5–10 minutes, or until a cube of bread dropped in sizzles immediately and turns golden within a minute (about 350°F if you are using a thermometer). Working in batches of three to four, fry the kibbeh for 5 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Cook’s tip : If the kibbeh turn brown too quickly when being fried, the oil is too hot and the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. Let the oil cool a little before cooking. Don’t leave the pan unattended, don’t fill it more than halfway, keep it toward the back of the stove, have the heat no higher than medium, and don’t overcrowd the pan or the oil may bubble over.

Authentic dishes from the Middle East

Rukmini Lyer