Meze for a long, lazy lunch is about as good as it gets. We are a family that loves meze. Sitting around a table, and grazing over a board of Mediterranean plates. When I first met my Irishman, a friend introduced us to this little Greek taverna in a backstreet of West Hampstead. One visit and we were hooked. We would sit there for hours in this bustling little restaurant while plate after plate of beautiful, fresh, seasonal food was delivered to our table. I’m not going to lie. There was also the odd bottle of wine. Because, well, wine is life!
Since those days, we look for any excuse to create a meze board. Some days I purposely plan to serve up meze (like I did last weekend), for a special occasion, other times, it’s an impromptu meal and I throw a few things from the fridge onto a board. We always have olives, salami, dips, and cheese in our house. Chargrill some seasonal vegetables, add some sourdough, breadsticks, or pitta, and we have meze. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (although sometimes I do give it the extra-special treatment!) because no matter what’s on the table, it’s the people around it that make it a meal.
What is “meze”?
While the official description labels it as an appetizer, I think of it more like a grazing board broken up into small dishes. They can be hot or cold, as simple as a dip and pitta or something a little more elaborate like dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), or stuffed squid. Traditionally meze is served with Ouzo, but you know me, white wine is my jam and I like to think it’s the perfect match!
Now a board is totally optional with meze. I probably lean towards a board purely because the idea of washing up 20 small plates just gives me nightmares. Throw it all onto a board I say! The bigger the better too. I have a couple of boards that I use for grazing boards. One rectangular, which is perfect for a long, rectangular table. I’ve also got a few circular boards including an old, circular, French wine barrel top, converted to a grazing board. I tend to use the round boards for smaller gatherings, and when the whole family is gathered, a long, grazing board that stretches the length of the table.
The Bits and Pieces
The good thing about meze is there are no rules. While there are some things that I am a stickler for on a meze board, (taramasalata I’m looking at you!), living in a rural area means not everything is readily available. You’ve always got to be ready to adapt a recipe because you never know what will, or won’t be available.
My meze boards are not strictly Greek themed, however, they always tend to still lean towards the Mediterranean vibe. A total bonus is there can be very little preparation required with a good meze board, and it’s totally up to the creator as to how much they want to make from scratch. This is a bit of an idea of some of the bits and pieces I use…
Dips – hummus and taramasalata are no brainers here but why not throw in something different like a beetroot hummus or tzatziki instead?
Vegetables – chargrilled capsicum, courgette, carrot, eggplant are all great options. IIf you don’t want to put the effort into chargrilling, raw vegetables, like sliced radish are a great substitute. Sometimes I even just like to add a salad to my spread if I’m wanting to make it a main meal. Lately, it’s tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella on a bed of baby spinach leaves, scattered with kalamata olives and a drizzle of balsamic. A simple Greek salad also works a treat!
Hot – if I’m going for the main meal, I always like to include a few hot bits. My usual suspects are meatballs, spinach and cheese triangles, salt and pepper squid, and grilled halloumi.
Other – olives, dolmades, marinated artichoke hearts, nuts
Breads – always pitta bread. Turkish bread, sourdough, breadsticks, seed crackers, and lavosh are great options too!
A few more tips to create a cracking meze board
I am a more is more, kind of girl when it comes to any kind of grazing board. They are usually packed full, using up all the spare space. It gives the appearance of abundance and can be quite the showstopper. Fill all the empty space.
Any meze board bits that aren’t easily picked up without making a complete mess, try bamboo cocktail forks.
Always add wine – it’s a given, right?
PS. I’m also listing the bits and pieces below from my meze board in the image above so you can recreate my meze board at home.
- Meats – provolone wrapped in salami, cacciatore, fresh prawns.
- Vegetables – grilled carrots, sliced radishes, marinated artichokes, olives, lemon wedges
- Dips – taramasalata, hummus
- Hot – grilled haloumi, spinach & cheese triangles
- Other – sourdough, breadsticks, pitta bread, salted pistacios
Have a thing for grazing boards? Check out this post about how to create a cracking cheeseboard