This is a simple and tasty snack for two or can be cut into small squares and served as part of an antipasto for larger groups.
You can vary the flavour of this bread with your choice of olive, so try Kalamata olives today and niçoise next week!
When you first make farinata (chickpea pancakes), known as socca in Nice, you will be more than a little alarmed at how liquid the batter seems to be. Fear not, it will pull together quite magically as it bakes into a smooth pancake. This is the poorest of foods – just finely ground chickpeas, water, oil and salt and pepper – and yet it manages to be one of the most addictive and delicious things to eat. Try not to eat it all before serving it to your guests! Wonderful with stracchino cheese or with salami or just by itself.
The combination of the walnuts and the stinging sharpness of the vinegar used in this recipe gives this Greek dip, called 'melitzanosalata me karythia', a nice tart taste that goes wonderfully with wedges of pitta bread, raw vegetables and salty cheeses.
A really delicious salad using aubergine and mint – a perfect flavour combination – with a little feta cheese to add some creamy saltiness to the finished dish.
This deliciously simple lentil salad, called adas bil hamod in Arabic, uses the very dark, almost black, lentils that are common in Middle Eastern countries. If black lentils are hard to find, use green French lentils instead.
This Middle Eastern salad, especially popular in Lebanon and Syria, consists of a chilled mixed salad tossed with small cubes of toasted bread. The texture of the toasted bread adds an unusual quality.
If you’re someone who likes combining the flavours of sweet and salty, the combination of watermelon and feta is just for you. It’s so simple, yet so fabulous.
This is a rustic Greek-style salad with baked feta cheese, walnuts, mixed salad greens and thinly sliced fresh radish and courgettes, tossed with a tangy lemon–garlic dressing.
This is such a classic, delicious antipasto and incredibly addictive! Also delicious with mozzarella in a sandwich made with crusty bread.
This delicious soup looks wonderfully colourful and has a lovely citrus flavour that really brings it to life.
This refreshing cold soup originated in Andalusia in Spain, where it is nicknamed Andalusian liquid salad. Cold soup is ideal for the summer months and occasions such as barbecues, and gazpacho is an ideal healthy starter because of the high proportion of vegetable ingredients. It is easily made and can be prepared hours prior to serving and stored in the fridge.
This is a wonderful recipe from Lebanon that sort of resembles an old-fashioned split-pea soup. Serve garnished with lemon wedges.
Hummus is one of the best-known and most popular Middle Eastern dips. Served with fresh or toasted pitta bread, hummus makes a great snack or appetiser. Tahini is an important part of the hummus recipe and cannot be replaced; however, it can be omitted, if you like.
Saganaki dishes take their name from the pan in which they are made. A sagani is a two-handled pan made in many different materials. Serve this recipe as an appetiser or as part of a meal made up of a varied selection of mezethes. The key to success with this dish is to get the oil really hot – just up to the smoking point before frying.
This mixture makes one very large Spanish tortilla, which is a bit like a frittata or a flat omelette or you can divide the mixture in half and make two smaller tortillas.
The flavour of these very simple little chickpea fritters, known as sambusac, will vary according to the spice mixture you add to your filling.
The slightly smoky flavour of the grilled courgettes is perfect with the freshness of the pesto, the piquancy of the garlic and the lovely fresh intensity of the fresh basil.
As with all recipes using clams (vongole), make sure they are as clean as possible before you cook them to avoid an unpleasant muddy taste or a gritty sensation under your teeth. This is a real classic from Italy.
Cooking fish or seafood on skewers can be done on the barbecue, in the oven or under the grill. These brochettes look very pretty and taste wonderful.
This is a delicious way to enjoy succulent chunks of fresh tuna and an ideal recipe to make on the barbecue. Just don’t skimp on the marinating time or the fish will turn out dry.
Pinchitos morunos are eaten everywhere in Spain as tapas, though nowadays they are made of pork, rather than lamb like Europe’s first kebabs, which were brought by the Arabs from Africa.
For this deliciously simple way of enjoying lamb, which in Italian is called ‘finger burn’ (agnello a scottadito) because you must eat it piping hot with your fingers, you need tender little lamb cutlets and a lovely hot, even heat with which to cook them to perfection. You could follow the same recipe using small chicken drumsticks or pork spareribs.
Preserved lemon is traditionally called for in this dish, although you can use thinly sliced fresh lemon if you prefer or if preserved lemons prove hard to find.
The beauty of this dish is that, like all spicy casseroles, it benefits from being made the day before and reheated. It even may be frozen well in advance of a party. The couscous can also be prepared in advance, and reheated in a microwave or a low oven.
This dramatic dish is a very special way to serve fresh fish. The crust is very thick, and it must be cracked open like a shell to reveal the perfectly cooked white fish within. It is important to protect the fish from becoming too salty – the skin of the fish will protect it all over, but use foil or waxed parchment paper along the belly slit to prevent the salt from seeping inside the fish. Use a large fish if you're cooking for a dinner party or special family meal or if there are just two of you, you can use a smaller fish and cook for a slightly shorter time.
Cooling ice creams made with nuts such as pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds are very popular all over the Mediterranean. You can also buy creamy almond milk in cartons in some Middle Eastern stores, which will make this whole recipe much faster.
It is important that the nuts used for making this classic dessert from Turkey and Greece are as fresh as possible for the best results. Also, the honey should be thick and tasty.
Crema catalana is the Catalan version of the French dessert, crème brulée. In fact, many regions lay claim to the origin of the dessert. It is also called Crema de Sant Josep or St Joseph’s Cream, traditionally prepared on March 19, St Joseph’s Day, the Spanish equivalent of Father’s Day.
This very light, cleansing salad is the perfect dessert to serve at the end of a long and heavy meal. It looks especially dramatic when prepared with blood oranges.
This is like a very simple lemon sorbet, only much more gritty and granular. It is very refreshing and can help you feel a lot less full after a very big, heavy meal. In Italy (where it is called 'granita di limone') this would be eaten either as a light dessert or just to help you cool off. It’s also delicious with a mixed citrus fruit salad.
Called 'gelo di cannella' in Sicily, this is a very light dessert, perfect to serve at the end of a long and spicy meal. The flavour of cinnamon is incredibly intense and surprisingly refreshing. Please be aware that the cinnamon sticks need to infuse in the water for a very long time, so start this dessert the day before you need it.
Among the variations of couscous, this recipe from Egypt is unrivaled for the sweet-toothed palate. It’s traditionally served with a cold glass of milk or a cup of heavy Arabic coffee.
In the Middle East, pitta is made in brick ovens, where very high heat can be achieved. It is very hard to duplicate in a home kitchen, but this recipe, combined with high heat, comes close.
This very rich and creamy Spanish baked custard is very easy to make. It is lovely served with a fruit compote.
This is a perfect way to whet appetites before the main part of the meal begins or you can make it into a light meal by serving it with crusty French bread and a green salad.
The Spanish tostada is probably one of Spain’s most famous midmorning snacks. It is very similar to the many kinds of snacks found around the Mediterranean, where a bread base is used to hold a variety of delicious ingredients.
The original name of this Middle Eastern specialty is dawood basha. In many parts of the Middle East, the mixture for kofta meatballs is sold already seasoned. To make it, mix 1 pound lean minced beef with half an onion and a small bunch of fresh parsley leaves in a food processor; add salt and pepper to taste. Pomegranate syrup (or pomegranate molasses) is sold in all good Middle Eastern stores.
These are little pastry envelopes that contain tasty fillings that can vary from meat to fruit. The recipe below is for the classic, rich beef filling. They are excellent served warm with a green salad and a glass of red wine.
Rice forms the basis of many meals throughout the Middle East. Often it is cooked with added ingredients, such as spices or vegetables. When cooking any Arabian-style rice, steam or bake it, tightly covered, so that it absorbs all the liquid and remains fragrant and fluffy.
This is a very traditional North African recipe for making a salad using bulgur (cracked wheat) as a base. You can also use large-grained couscous if bulgur is difficult to find.
Koazy al-macarona is a very famous dish of Middle Eastern cuisine. One can taste this dish, with its rather odd combination of ingredients, in many Middle Eastern countries. The recipe is very easy and the results are really delicious.
There are many different recipes for this very important Ligurian dressing (or uncooked sauce), as well as many ready-made versions of the sauce. To keep the pesto really green, you can add a few leaves of spinach to the basil. The amount of garlic required is largely up to personal taste, although its complete exclusion will mean this sauce is no longer a pesto but simply a basil sauce.
This is the very familiar, traditional, simple raw tomato sauce for the summer, when the weather is much too hot to spend time in the kitchen. Spaghetti sugo vacanza is prepared by holidaying Italians all over the country.
This is a variation of a popular tapas dish from Seville, the southern Spanish city acknowledged as the birthplace of the tapas tradition. If you want to be faithful to the original Sevillian recipe, remove the pan from the heat while the eggs are still a little runny.
The salty flavour of griddled halloumi cheese is perfect against the backdrop of a lovely fresh, crisp salad with a very garlicky salad dressing that gives the whole dish real zing.
Za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, is so versatile that it can be used on meats, vegetables, rice and breads.
This really substantial Spanish potato salad can be made into a whole meal with a fresh green-leaf salad and some crusty bread.
This is a great choice for a party because you can make it ahead. It tastes even better after the flavours have had time to meld.
This scrambled egg dish is one of those dishes that defines the cuisine of southern France, especially that of the Basque region, where it is a local specialty. In its original version, piperade relies on the wonderful tomatoes and peppers of the region.
This super-easy recipe is tasty and packed with a lot of flavour. Borani, as it is known in the Middle East, makes a great snack or appetiser.
This delicious squash soup, called crèma de calabaza in its native Spain, is sharpened by the flavour of the apple, which cleverly takes away some of the dense, sweet flavour of the squash.
Looz shorba is a deliciously rich and creamy almond soup with a wonderfully sweet flavour. Make sure the almonds are really fresh for the best results.
This wonderfully filling and nourishing soup is called makhluta in Lebanese and uses just about every kind of bean available! To save time, you can use tinned beans instead of the dried, which means you can eliminate the overnight soaking step.
There are countless versions of this classic dish all over Italy, using a huge variety of ingredients. Here’s a favourite version from the city of Naples.
This is the easiest recipe for making a really Mediterranean-tasting fish casserole. You can add mussels, prawns and all manner of other fish or seafood if you wish, although the basic recipe calls only for filleted white fish, which makes it really easy to eat. The bread soaks up all the flavours and juices of the fish and is eaten at the end, once all the fish has gone.
Jamón Serrano is a dry-cured ham, rather like prosciutto. The combination of the slightly metallic flavour of the asparagus and the sweet saltiness of the ham makes for a deliciously tantalising plateful. This is easy to prepare on the barbecue.
These unusual little croquettes contain artichoke in the rice mixture, and break open to reveal a melting cheese centre. Manchego is made from sheep’s milk and has a tart flavour that goes wonderfully with the delicate taste of the rice and artichokes.
Homemade falafel are surprisingly easy to make and far more delicious than anything you can buy in the shops. They're delicious served with tzatziki, houmous and salad and make great food for little ones as they're highly nutritious and easy to pick up and eat.
Gilda means ‘lollipop’ in Spanish, and the classic gilda is this simple assembly of a guindilla (a Spanish chilli pepper), an anchovy and an olive. The combination of good-quality pinkish anchovies with smallish, crisp, unwrinkled chillies and a freshly pitted olive produces a sophisticated mouthful.
This lovely dish of lentils comes from Egypt originally (where it is known as kosheree), but many variations on this basic theme exist all over the Mediterranean, where the humble lentil is highly prized and celebrated in lots of different dishes.
Greek tzatziki, traditionally served as an appetiser, can be left on the table as an accompaniment for other foods throughout the meal. The key to the best tzatziki is the thick creamy texture that allows it to be eaten alone, as a dip, spread or condiment.
A classic and flavourful soup originating in Greece and combining eggs and lemon with rice and chicken stock to create a lovely zesty taste.
Created in the little town of Recco on the Ligurian Riviera, this lovely oily and salty bread is perfect when split and filled with thinly sliced Parma ham and ripe tomatoes.
This type of pizza, which is remarkably similar to the pissaladière of southern France, is very popular throughout Liguria. The name pizza all’Andrea comes from the local hero, Andrea Doria (1466–1560 ce), who was very fond of this dish.
The key to tender lamb 'souvlaki' is the marinade, so don’t skimp on the timing (even though it takes three days!). The longer the kebabs marinate, the better this 'souvlaki arnisio' will taste!
'Torte de acelga' is traditionally eaten on Good Friday in Gibraltar, a day on which, according to Catholic tradition, no meat is consumed. It is very similar to other versions of this kind of pie or savoury cake enjoyed in other parts of the Mediterranean.
The sweet taste of the peppers is perfect with the chicken in this simple dish called 'pollo ai peperoni'. All it needs to finish it off are some boiled or steamed potatoes and a simple green vegetable such as haricots verts.
For linguine al sugo di pesce, it is a good idea to use a fish that can withstand a fairly long cooking time without losing all its flavour and texture, you could opt for a thick swordfish steak, chopped into small cubes, and some white fish, which will flake better. In this way, there are two completely separate textures within the same dish. However, you can use any combination of fish of your choice, or even squid if you prefer. Cheese is never served with fish pasta dishes or at least, extremely rarely.
To boost the protein level, add a tin of kidney beans or some diced firm tofu to the stuffing.
Tortellini are available with a huge variety of fillings – although traditionally they are stuffed with chopped meat or cheese. For this recipe, choose one that will go well with courgettes and sheep’s cheese, such as spinach and ricotta, sun-dried tomato or wild mushroom.
Grilled goat's cheese and figs on bread will not only become a favourite, but will also make a super lunchtime snack.
Sweet and creamy rice pudding makes a rich and luscious base for this fresh and fruity salad.
It is not always possible to buy fresh squid that have been left uncleaned, with their ink sacs intact. However, you can buy squid ink separately, in a jar; it has a deeply fishy flavour and a wonderful dark glow. Ask your fishmonger for advice.
Serve with a glass of chilled fino sherry to echo the marinade. Octopus needs high heat to cook quickly so it doesn’t get rubbery, so it’s best roasted or grilled.
Wild mushrooms sautéed with garlic and white wine and finished with truffle oil. Sounds good, but topped with crisply fried quail eggs, it is divine.
These are deceptively easy to conjure up and they are absolutely delicious. There are lots of different types of antipasto in gourmet food shops; this is a great way to serve them.