THE ULTIMATE MEZZE BOARD

Spring time is a time of joy, celebration, and delicious food. One delightful way to share the joy with your loved ones is by creating the ultimate mezze board. Mezze, originating from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, is a collection of small, flavourful dishes that are perfect for grazing and sharing. In this article, we will guide you on how to build the ultimate mezze board for the season, featuring some classic Greek dishes like Tirokafteri, Kolokithokeftedes, Tzatziki, Pitas, Gyros, and Horiatiki courtesy of 2019’s MasterChef UK Winner Irini Tzortzoglou. Tzortzoglou highlights the tricks and tips behind presenting Mezze artfully, turning your small plates into a thoughtful composition that leaves your guests stunned.

Tirokafteri

Spinning some taverna classics into delicate show-stopping plates, Irini first shows us the simple yet iconic tirokafteri. Tirokafteri is a spicy feta cheese dip that packs a flavourful punch. To include it on your mezze board, prepare it by blending feta cheese, flame-roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, red wine vinegar, fresh chilli and red pepper flakes. Serve it in a small bowl or ramekin, garnished with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped fresh oregano, and a sprinkle of paprika for a pop of colour. Tirokafteri is a favourite with natives and tourists alike for good reason and is delicious eaten with a wedge of home-cooked bread or along with some pillowy pita. However, Irini shows us how to elevate it by surrounding the creamy dip with a crispy array of another taverna classic.

Kolokithokeftedes

Kolokithokeftedes, or courgette/pumpkin fritters, are a crispy and savoury addition to your mezze board. Prepare these by grating zucchini into some muslin or cheesecloth and rubbing with coarse sea salt before mixing it with a spiced flour mix, grated cheese, chopped mint, and eggs. Irini stresses the importance of removing all water from the courgette before mixing with the other ingredients to achieve the signature crisp. Shape the mixture into small patties and fry them until golden brown. Though traditionally most fried mezze dishes are deep fried in Greek EVOO, Irini shows how you can achieve a less calorific crisp by rolling the kolokithokeftedes in panko breadcrumbs and air frying for 15 minutes for a less authentic but equally crispy finish!

Tzatziki

The shining star of any Greek mezze worth its salt, Tzatziki is a cooling cucumber and yogurt dip that pairs perfectly with grilled meats and griddled pita. To make tzatziki, similarly to Kolokithokeftedes, grate cucumbers and squeeze out excess moisture by rubbing with salt and straining through some muslin. Mix them with Greek yogurt, minced garlic, fresh finely chopped dill, olive oil, and a splash of lemon juice or red wine vinegar for a dash of acidity. Serve it in a bowl garnished with a sprig of dill, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of paprika. Irini shows how to elevate the aesthetic with her “tips from the taverna” by thinly slicing a strip of de-seeded cucumber with a mandolin and spiraling it into a firm ribbon to sit atop the tzatziki – an understated yet effective piece of plating advice; conveying what is contained within any homogenous dish by garnishing with its key components.

Gyros

Gyros, slices of seasoned and grilled meat, add a savoury element to your mezze board. You can choose lamb, chicken, or beef gyro meat. A spit isn’t needed for those cooking in their own domestic kitchen, you can set your chosen meat atop wedges of potato and skewer the strips of meat atop them, wrapping the seasoned stack in tin foil to retain the moisture for a tender and juicy cut. Arrange the slices neatly on your board, and consider adding small bowls of tahini or yogurt sauce for dipping. You can also include some fresh tomato and red onion slices to complement the gyro (always ensure you dress your fresh vegetables by tossing them in oil, an acid of your choice, salt, pepper, and a fresh Mediterranean herb).

Horiatiki

Horiatiki, widely known as simply “Greek salad”, is a refreshing addition to balance the richness of the other mezze items. A key distinction between the European favourites of Italian and Greek cuisine is the elevation of raw onion as opposed to garlic in Greek dishes. To reproduce the unadulterated taverna classic, simply combine sliced ripe salad tomatoes, diced cucumber, slices of red onion, and Kalamata olives, atop with a whole block of Greek feta cheese in a large salad bowl. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle oregano on top. Serve this salad in individual small bowls or arrange it on the board with a sprinkle of fresh herbs for colour. For those looking to elevate their Horiatiki, Irini provides a masterclass in plating in her segment that explores how to “MasterChef” your home cooking. Starting by rubbing the brunoised onion in salt to remove the heat and highlight the sweetness of the dish, dotting around the plate unevenly. Add a bundle of sliced tri-colour heritage tomatoes in the centre of the plate, arranging a wreath of sliced and dressed salad tomatoes in a circle around the bundle. To complete the dish, instead of the standard addition of a hunk of feta and a handful of olives, Irini creates a homemade kalamata tapenade and whipped feta, and pipes them into the gaps on the plate. Finish the dish with a drizzle of EVOO and some mandolined ribbons of cucumber sat atop the salad.

Tips from the Taverna for Plating like a MasterChef Champion

  • Use a large wooden or marble board as the base for your mezze presentation. These materials add an elegant touch and provide a sturdy foundation. The more rustic the better.
  • Create visual contrast by incorporating a variety of colors, textures, and shapes. Think about the visual appeal of your board as much as the flavours.
  • Fill in empty spaces on the board with fresh herbs, edible flowers, or small decorative bowls filled with nuts, dried fruits, or pickles.
  • Consider the rule of thirds when composing your boards – for a detailed explanation of how the rule of thirds operates in the culinary scape – check out our article on How to Plate like a MasterChef champion.
  • Symmetry should not always be the priority – plating unevenly will create a pleasing aesthetic that encourages you to acknowledge all of the components of the dish.
  • Serve your mezze board with small utensils, such as mini tongs or cocktail forks, to make it easy for guests to help themselves without disrupting the presentation.

Building the ultimate mezze board for the season is an enjoyable culinary art that combines the flavours of the Mediterranean and with the artistry of presentation. By including Tirokafteri, Kolokithokeftedes, Tzatziki, Pitas, Gyros, and Horiatiki, and following our plating advice, you can create a stunning and delicious centrepiece for your family gatherings.