A touch of Turkish Tapas, Meze or Mezedes….Mediterranean nibbles

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My favourite London restaurant has closed after almost 50 years ūüė¶

The Efes restaurant in Gt.Titchfield St. was famous for the atmosphere, the clientele ( right next to the BBC’s Langham Place building) the friendly staff, the food, the service and the theatre¬†of it all.

One of their best sellers was the ‘Three Fillet Meze’, the three fillets of meat from the grill were preceded by mixed dips on a huge platter centred around a prawn cocktail, all served with hot pitta bread, ¬†then a plate of pan fried liver was served followed¬† the three fillets along with slices of hot donner kebab and then the whole meal was ended with a huge platter of hand-trimmed fruit pieces¬†around a hollowed out pineapple with a night light candle in it and also sporting a couple of lit sparklers. Did I mention the theatre? Sometimes people clapped!

The amazing thing is that this feast cost just £18 a head! Unbelievable value for London!

So here follows a list of easy to do dips and nibbles to recreate Efes at home.



Stuff you can buy from most supermarkets to go with hot pitta bread:

Taramasalata ( smoked cod roe and bread dip)

Houmous, in various varieties ( Crushed chick peas, oil and crushed sesame seed paste)

Tzatziki Cucumber in yoghurt

Babaganoush mashed aubergine and oil.

To accompany:

Pickle chillies in vinegar and brine.

Hot or sweet pickled red peppers in jars, some stuffed with soft cheese.

Olives in brine, oil or fresh packets

Pickled cucumbers

Carrot sticks and other¬† vegetable ‘crudites’

Marinated fresh anchovies

Tabouleh and bulghur wheat salads.

Beetroot and feta cheese puree.

Don’t forget the pitta bread!

Greek stuff:

Haloumi cheese, cheese for slicing and grilling (or frying, perhaps add some black pepper and mixed herbs)

Feta cheese for salads( buy real Greek stuff for better quality)

Jars or tins of Dolmades( rice wrapped in vine leaves)

Jars or tins of giant beans in a tomato sauce

Jars or tins of meat balls in a tomato sauce

Louganika red wine sausage. I just can’t find this in Surrey so I buy chipolatas and put them in a little plastic bag¬†with some¬†red wine after puncturing them a hundred times with a cocktail stick…the meat soaks up the red wine.

Spanish stuff:

Padron peppers,   sear in a dry frying pan to blister, add a drizzle of olive oil and shake around to coat, finish with a drizzle of runny honey and serve.

Patatas bravas  Boil little new potatoes, drain and cover with a little tomato ketchup with a dab of tomato puree and a dash of chilli sauce.

Chorizo in red wine. Dry fry sliced chorizo until the fat renders and the meat takes on a little colour. Splash over a little red wine and reduce to a syrup before serving.

Prawns in garlic oil. Add a big glug olive oil to a frying pan , add thawed cooked frozen little prawns and thinly sliced fresh garlic cloves. When warmed through serve with crusty bread to mop up the oil; and prawns with.

Spanish warm tapas

All of the above hot Spanish tapes dishes can be done ahead of time, placed in terracotta bowls and refrigerated until needed. Then just warm gently in a microwave just before serving them…or serve cold on a hot day?

Lebanese stuff

Labna Mix together equal portions of Philadelphia cheese and plain yoghurt. Use as a dip with pitta bread.

Falafel.  Chick pea rissoles. Buy a packet and follow the instructions. Try and shape the little rissoles like baby lemons for authenticity

Kofte. Roll lamb mince, mixed with ground cumin, ground coriander and dried mint into little balls and gently fry.



Tahini paste, slightly bitter paste made of ground sesame seeds…use in dips like houmous.

Jars of pickled chillies and peppers

Jars of pickled mushrooms

Jars of pickled vegetables

Jars of grilled peppers in oil

Jars of sun dried tomatoes in oil

Sardines and potato mashed together…sort of Cornwall taramasalata

Diced pickled beetroot and salad cream

Diced hard boiled egg and vinegary mayonnaise

Mashed baked beans with a dash of chilli sauce







Lord of the Burgers…one burger to rule them all

Inspired by some internet posts pointed out to me by my pal Jasmin I put this beast together. It got messy! To make just one 12 ounce burger you need:


  Burger mince or two 6oz. patties

Streaky bacon

Grated mozzarella

Pickled peppers and jalapenos.

BBQ sauce

Seeded bun.



Lay clingfilm on your board and create a star of bacon using four rashers. Put two patties, or 12 ounces of seasoned burger mince together and form them around a tin can or other object, 3 and a half inches wide, put the burger cup centrally on the bacon star:

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Twist and pull the can out :

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Half fill the cup with packed-down grated mozzarella:

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Put some drained pickled peppers and jalapenos on top:


Top off with more grated cheese:


Pull the meat up over to make the pattie rounder, top with a dab of BBQ sauce, and bring the bacon ends up to the middle, securing them together with a cocktail stick:


Wrap the burger up with the clingfilm and refrigerate to set the meat stiff:


Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, at 190 Deg. C, or gas Mark 5, checking that the middle cheese has melted. You can do it in a BBQ with a lid, over ‘indirect heat’, i.e: not directly above the heat source.


This burger is MESSY to eat!  Wrap it in a foil nappy!


Mint Sauce, …. for Indian starters

mint sauce




This stuff has changed in the restaurants over the years..these days it’s very sweet….it reminds me of cold custard!…..here’s the recipe for the modern stuff:

Yoghurt, low fat doesn’t seem to spoil the taste or texture. Add the following:

Milk to thin¬†or ‘slacken’ the yogurt

Frozen Coriander

English Mint Sauce for lamb.

Caster sugar.

Pinch of salt.

Green food dye, optional


Start with a little of everything and see how you like it…but watch the salt…yogurt gets suddenly salty with just a grain too much and you can’t take it out again.¬† Don’t blend this with an electric blender as the yogurt will go runny and not thicken again later.

This gloop goes great with poppadums, chicken tikka, sheek kebabs and onion bhajis.

Richard’s Scotch Eggs

My fishing pal, Richard, wanted to lose a bit of weight so he started making a lot of his food for himself. He says he found this recipe on Slimmer’s World, but I could never find it on-line, so here it is…just as he did it…with a few additions by me

Shopping List:

One pack ( 6) Heck 97%  Sausages, or see text for others that are suitable

Half a ¬†box¬† (3) of Medium size ¬†Eggs, maybe some fancy ‘golden yolkers’?)

For the crumb:

Panko Breadcrumbs, somewhat crushed with a rolling pin inside a plastic bag. Half and half equal quantity with :

Dried Cous-Cous

The flavourings:

Mixed Herbs, a pinch

Dried Sage, another pinch

Schwarz Chicken Seasoning, a quarter of a teaspoon.

Mild Curry Powder, a quarter of a teaspoon

Black Onion Seeds, ( Nigella)… a pinch

Cumin seeds, … a pinch

Caraway seeds, …¬†a pinch

Black sesame seeds, a pinch

Fennel seeds, …. a pinch

Orange powder food dye..just a pinch …. optional.



Surprisingly complex bit:     How To Boil ( and peel) Eggs!

Take your eggs out of the ‘fridge the night before and lay them on their sides. This will allow the yolk to go back to the middle so you won’t have yolk right at the edge of the white. The egg in the scotch egg shown cut in half above was only laid on its side for 3 hours……not quite enough as you can see! The fresher the egg the longer it will take the yolk to migrate back to the middle again as the white is stills tiff and hasn’t taken on any water through the porous shell yet.¬† ¬†Ain’t eggs technical?

Place the eggs into a saucepan of cold water and bring them to the boil reasonably gently to let them heat through evenly. Once boiling, open the pan lid a crack, move the pan partly off the heat to keep an even gentle ‘rolling’ boil for eight minutes exactly for medium sized eggs.¬†

Lift them from the boiling water and put them into a bowl of cold water for one minute. Change the water for more cold water. This cools the egg quickly and prevents an unappetising ‘green ring’ in the yolk.¬†¬†It also¬†slightly toughens the rubbery membrane under the shell a little, making it easier to remove, but leave them in the cold water too long and this membrane becomes bullet-proof!¬† Just ask any cook who’s had to peel 200 for egg-mayo sandwiches!! I swear eggs didn’t have this bluddy membrane when I was a lad and it drives cooks mad these days!

Now take them out one at a time and tap the shell on the roundest end to crack the shell slightly,¬† there’s a little air pocket there, that gets bigger if the egg is old…that’s why old eggs float in water.¬† Peel the shell off just there, and the membrane beneath too and put them back in the cold water for another¬†three minutes to let water creep under the membrane making it easier to get off……hopefully!

Now, with luck, you should be able to peel the shell and membrane from the eggs easily with no torn whites and no yolk showing. I do this underwater in the cold water pan as it helps the shell and membrane lift away and lets you see if you missed any. Ruddy eggs….it didn’t used to be this hard….what are they feeding these chickens now?




Chill the eggs for an hour in the ‘fridge in a plastic bag with a dry sheet of kitchen paper in there¬†to dry the outsides.¬†Then remove them from the ‘fridge and gently cut them in half with a whetted knife so you don’t tear the white or smear the yolk..


Make up your chosen crumb mixture and put this spread evenly over a cold plate.


Using the point of a knife cut the sausage skins from top to bottom and peel them from the  sausages.


Take a skinless sausage and rub the meat into a round patty and bring it up the rounded sides of an egg half. Be careful not to smear the egg yolk, press the meat onto it, don’t push it sideways.

Place the scotch eggs flat side down onto the crumb mixture and carry on with the remainder. Go back to the first one and turn it to coat the curved side of the scotch egg, rolling it in the mixture to get an even coating. DO NOT RE-USE CRUMB MIXTURE THAT HAS BEEN ON THE PLATE WITH THE RAW SAUSAGEMEAT…THROW IT AWAY.



Turn the oven on to 180 Degrees C, or Gas Mark 4 whilst the crumb firms up.


Bake the scotch eggs in the oven for 20 minutes, twisting sideways¬†once to release them from the baking tray mid way through…..cool on a cooling rack by the window until cool enough to refrigerate under kitchen paper to keep the crumb crisp..


You can use other sausages, but go for ‘low fat’ ones, you can do a whole sausage to a half egg, but they’ll need 25 minutes cooking then. If you use bigger eggs they need longer boiling…ten minutes for Extra-Large.



Sausage Facts:¬† Sausages used to be sold by the pound in the UK, and many still are, but it isn’t legal to list the weight in anything other than Metric…a pound is 454 grams. You used to get eight sausages to the pound so each sausage was 2 ounces, or 56.75 grams¬† In the catering world they were called ‘Pork 8s’. Chipolatas were in a thinner, sheep’s gut, casing and were 16 to the pound, ‘Pork 16s’ and cocktail sausages were the same with an extra twist in the middle to turn them into ‘Pork 32s’.

Nowadays, most fancy sausages are often in a smaller pack,¬†usually containing only six sausages…just like the Heck 97s I used for this recipe. They come in at 400 grams for 6 which makes them 66.66 grams, so they are a tiny bit bigger than the old British bangers.

But some modern sausages, to hide the expense, are sold in 375 gram and even 350 gram packets for six which works out at 62.5 grams and 58.33 grams respectively.¬† Okay, they are a tiny bit bigger than a traditional banger…but you’re only getting six, not eight!

They’re all close enough size-wise to cover a medium egg though, but do be aware of what you are being tricked into paying for a so-called ‘premium product’. All sausages have water added to the rusk, the breadcrumbs that bind the meat together….just how much water affects the weight considerably and sausages are sold by weight……….Weight watchers own sausages are so watery they are utterly useless and there’s a few others out there adding vast amounts of water. Ingredients are listed by Law in the order of greatest downwards, just look at this for Sainsbury sausagemeat:¬†¬†¬†

INGREDIENTS:Pork (84%), Water, Rice Flour, Gram Flour, Salt, Onion Powder, White Pepper, Maize Starch, Fresh Sage, Nutmeg, Sage, Preservative: Sodium Metabisulphite (Sulphites), Coriander, Antioxidant: Ascorbic Acid; Dextrose.

Water, by weight, is the second greatest ingredient!¬† And this is their top of the range sausagemeat¬† with just 17.9% fat, they do another at Christmas only that is 30% fat……

I tend to go for low fat sausages as they don’t split open in the oven as the water evaporates and the fat renders out. Buying loose sausagemeat seems to simply guarantee a failure as it has so much water in it.


These Scotch Eggs are great for anglers who want to eat with only one hand…put your rod down and you’ll miss the only bite of the day … and being ‘half shaped’ they don’t roll away. I should warn you that after you get used to them being pretty different to the shop bought ones you may find them a bit addictive.¬† I did.

Richard, they don’t work!¬† I ate twenty a week and didn’t lose so much as half a pound!




Doing a ‘Berni’

In 1955 the Berni brothers, Frank and Aldo, started a chain of affordable restaurants that got the British eating out…something they simply hadn’t done before, except the very rich going out to hotels.

They were a huge success and change post war un-rationed Britain enormously.  The chain was eventually sold to Whitbread and became Beefeater.

Berni Inns most popular offerings were Prawn Cocktail as a starter, Steak and chips and Black Forest Gateaux for dessert. And although the gateaux has been replaced by other desserts, the prawn cocktail and the steak and chips are still the top sellers even today

So that’s what we thought we’d do for a laugh for my birthday…a ‘Berni’, complete with wine from the old days…..


TO START:¬†¬† Prawn Cocktail with Mateus rose …the first wine most Brits ever tried……



MAINS:¬† Steak and chips, peas and onion rings¬†with Lambrusco red wine…the second wine most Brits ever tried……


DESSERT: Black Forest Gateaux……. ‘ish’ …..courtesy of a Mary Berry Indulgent Chocolate cake, a can of squirt cream, home made cherry brandy and Morello cherries and cherry jam.


I’m sure anyone can do all these themselves without recipes, but did you know that ‘prawn cocktail sauce’, or Sauce Rose-Marie is simply Salad Cream with a dash of Tomato Ketchup? You can tweak it with mayonnaise for a creamier texture, chilli sauce for a little bite, vinegar or lemon juice to temper the fat……or just use low fat options.

The Black Forest Gateaux we used to get in all the shops seems to have gone from the shops now, though Sainsbury to one in their bakery shops.  I used a Mary Berry Indulgent Chocolate cake, split in half and soaked in French Brandy that had had some Morello cherry juice  and some liquid from St, Balfour cherry jam added.


In Germany you are not allowed by Law to call a cake Black Forest Cherry Cake ( Scwartzwalder Kirschtorte) unless it is soaked in Kirschwasser, a slightly bitter cherry brandy that tastes more of cherry stones than fruit….And their original is more cream than chocolate sponge, but in the spirit of Berni, I spread cherry jam on the booze-soaked lower¬†sponge, squirted cream all over it, put the top half gently back on, soaked that in booze too¬†and added rosettes of cream with whole Morello cherries on top and some more cream around the sides.


It was just for a laugh really…but we were both blown away with how good it tasted.

Anyone as old as me and remember the advert on TV?¬† ” We’d be better off at a Berni”


The other option was ‘Peppercorn Sauce’…a packet from Tesco in this case…..



berni inn logo 2                                         berni inn steak dinner




Coney Island style Hot Dogs

I’d always imagined that these came from Coney Island….well you would right?¬†¬† The Brooklyn beachfront is famous for its Fair and Boardwalk and before WW2 was the largest entertainment complex in the US.

Turns out they originated in Michigan. D’oh!¬†¬† They are mostly associated with Greek and Albanian immigrants, which is weird as they don’t reflect the food of those cultures one bit………..Oh well.

Sort of a ‘chilli cheese dog’ which I’ve covered before, but these HAVE to have a smooth chilli and raw diced onions on them.


But first a word about hot dogs, because even the Americans who largely live on them get it wrong!


‘Dogs’ are often referred to as Franks or Wieners but they are not, technically, the same thing. Franks are from Frankfurt and are made of pork. Weiners are from Vienna, or Wien, as they say it in Austria and are made of beef being invented to suit the large Jewish community that once lived there. So if you hear a Yank talk about a Beef Frank…he’s talking rubbish.

Before we laugh at the Yanks for getting it wrong though it should be pointed out we’re pretty much ALL saying it wrong anyway. You see German is one of the group of languages that originated in what is now India and like all of Eastern Europe they pronounce the letters V and W opposite to what we do. I expect we pronounced them that way once too…maybe in the time of the Germanic Anglo Saxons, but we probably got influenced by the near neighbours, France, Italy and Spain …. the so-called’ Romantic languages….and reversed the pronunciation of V and W at some time.¬† And then we colonised North America with our English, wrongly pronounced V’s and W’s.¬† So Wieners from Vienna should be pronounced “VEENERS” nor “Weeners”. Everybody is saying it wrong….and it’s all our ( the English) fault………oops!


You can cook a ‘dog’ many ways; …. simmer in in hot water…about 80 degrees. Grill it, griddle it or bake it.¬† You see it belongs to the group of German sausages called br√ľhwurst, or ‘cooked sausage’ and it’s already been cooked. The meat is pureed with ice¬†pushed into skins and then chilled very suddenly, causing the protein to bind and give that ‘springy’ texture, before being smoked and cooked in the skins.

There are many types of¬†br√ľhwurst in Germany …. over 800! Almost every city has its own version, from Nurnbergrostbratwurst, the smallest with the biggest name, to bockwurst, bratwurst and even Austrian Kasekrainer.¬† For a hot dog in a bun, I’d go for good old Herta or the smokey Saxony ones from M&S.


Shopping List

Hot dog sausages of your choice. Herta are big sellers with a big smoky taste and they’re in all the shops. Marks and Spencer do a nice yellowish smoky one from Saxony.

Long Buns, or French bread

Minced beef

Chilli powder, hot

Tinned chopped tomatoes…maybe just half the tin?

Diced raw onion to garnish

American sweet mustard to serve



Bring the¬†chopped tomatoes to a simmer in a pan and add the minced beef. Leave to gently cook through, testing the meat for toughness after 20 minutes…it may need longer…probably will.¬†Add the hot chilli powder to taste. Note: there’s no cumin in this ‘sauce’ but if you like it add it!

Flick some water on the buns and microwave them for 12 seconds to refresh them. Allow to cool and cut part-way through from above. You could steam the buns on a cake rack above a simmering saucepan if you wanted, but the microwave is a good substitute.

Cook the hot dogs your preferred way…dry frying in a pan is easiest and concentrates their flavour, but go gently or they’ll split their skins!

To serve, take a sausage and put it in a bun, add chilli sauce on top and then sprinkle with raw onions and dress with mustard. Some folk like some grated cheese on top too, some use a slice of ‘burger cheese’. Some like a splash of ketchup.


As you can see this is something really simple that children could make with a little parental supervision and there’s not much mess involved….if you’re lucky!



R√∂sti, hash browns and potato stuff


Though sometimes made with diced pre-cooked potatoes, when they are known as hashed potatoes,¬† American ‘hash browns’ are more similar to Swiss¬† R√∂sti and made with grated potatoes.


There’s a million semi-secret recipes that all claim to be the ONLY correct one, but Swiss genius chef Anton Mossiman seemed not to be bothered about all the secrecy and published¬† his recipe in his autobiography. he ought to know how to make them…it’s how he started, at the very bottom, as a breakfast chef in his Father’s hotel!


Potatoes,¬† choose your favourite but , Lady Balfour, Bartlett’s Rooster¬†or Maris Piper work well.



Vegetable oil



Grate the potatoes into  bowl, add a big pinch of salt to draw out the moisture and grate in a little onion. Mix well. Put the mixture into a tea towel or muslin cloth and leave it for 20 minutes.  Now wring the mixture out to get rid of most of the water.  The salt will largely go out with it and will have also burst the cells in the potato and the onion and softened them too.

Now fry the mixture gently in little patties in a blend of vegetable oil and a little butter.


Be patient or the potato will burn before the middle cooks. When you see dark edges you can flip the patties over to cook the other side.


If you want  to make one big patty to share, simply put  a small flat plate on top of the patty, turn the frying pan and plate upside down and take the patty away with the plate, before sliding it back into the reverted pan to cook the other side.

Something similar exists in most European countries often using potato or wheat flour , or left-over mashed potato and an egg to bind the mixture.¬† There’s lots of names, but Latkes, potato pancakes and boxty¬†are a few names………

You can change them up with a little bacon added to the mixture and they are great served with a fried egg.¬† Egg and Chips ‘Mountain Style’!


Flammekuechen..Alsatian Pizza

I’d always thought this ‘pizza’ was from Belgium as Waitrose offered a frozen one that claimed it was, some 20 years ago. It turns out it’s actually from Alsace, that North-Eastern part of France, across the Vosges mountains that is more German than French.


Consequently, you can find it all over Germany and a fair bit it Northern France, but it’s virtually unknown here in the UK. It’s made with dough, cr√®me fra√ģche, ham, onions and a little Gruyere cheese.

I used a quarter of a Sainsbury Taste the Difference Ciabatta and Focaccia mix that had been made up the night before for pizza.

I stretched it out to a rectangle as thin as I could, spread it with low-fat cr√®me fra√ģche with the back of a spoon. I put on super-finely sliced onions, and some ham pieces and baked it for 15 minutes at 200 degrees C, or Gas Mark 6, then I grated a¬† little Gruyere over it and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes. You want some brown edges to the dough to show it is cooked.




Fish Tacos

This is a big cheat!¬†¬† I’ve done these with some of the new fish products in the shop freezers….crispy battered fish fingers, …Tempura battered fish fingers, and older more familiar ones like Scampi and battered cod fillets etc etc etc…..


Coming from the Pacific Coast of Mexico around Baja, where¬†they are¬†quite California influenced,¬†though also from the Caribbean coast of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsular, these often use sweet-flavoured predatory fish, but all fish are predatory really, our own favourite, cod, is a true deep sea monster of a hunter. I do feel that milder flavoured fish, like Pollock, Whiting and Basa don’t fair so well with these strong flavours from Mexico.


You can buy a jar of ‘salsa’ or make your own finely dicing red pepper, onion and jalapeno chilli, chopped coriander leaf¬†and squeezing lime juice on it just before serving…the original ‘pico di gallo’…” the chicken’s beak”

You can vary your salsa and your tortillas enormously….diced beetroot goes beautifully with fish in a ‘Mediterranean herby wrap, for instance. Crispy veggies are a must…radish is popular in Baja..grated carrot, shredded lettuce or cabbage etc etc…..

You want some ‘crema’, ….sour cream, thinned with a little milk¬†…..chilli mayonaisse¬†or garlic and onion dip and you want some hot sauce…but not too much, fish has a delicate flavour.

Choose your fish, choose your wrap or soft tortilla and choose your fillings and sauces….job done!


Loaded Grilled Cheese Sandwich

This is another American staple food for kids, often served with tomato soup, but this is ¬†kicked up a bit, or ‘loaded’ as the Americans say.

The name is misleading…it isn’t grilled it’s cooked on a griddle, a thick cast iron skillet or a hot plate…..a frying pan works just fine too!


Shopping List:

Grated mild cheddar

Thickly sliced ‘real’ bread…two slices.

Margarine or butter to spread

Sliced peppers and onions

Sliced chorizo, or spicy pepperoni


Fry the peppers and onions together and when some dark edges appear add the chorizo or pepperoni, set aside warm. Clean the pan and put it back on the heat, set to low.

Heat up the  frying pan.

Butter one side of each slice of bread.

Put just a little grated cheese in the middle of the frying pan, spread out to roughly to the shape of a the bread slice, put one slice of bread on top of this, spreaded side down.¬† Now add grated cheese to the top of the bread¬†in the pan to cover it evenly. Gather up any¬†escaped cheese gratings to the bread..it’ll stick to the cheese underneath the slice.

Now put the warm pepper and meat mixture on top of the¬†‘cheese on toast’ in the pan, and add the other slice of bread on top, spreaded side up.

After a few minutes ease the bottom bread up from the pan gently…it will come loose when it’s ready and you can flip the sandwich over gently, throwing a little grated cheese under it as you do so. Once again any escaped cheese can be gathered up.

Both outer bread sides¬†have ¬†now ‘fried’ in the cheese fat and the grated cheese with it is¬†browning….don’t let it get too dark, ….whilst you wait for the cheese in the middle of the sandwich to melt as well…be patient, it will melt!¬†¬† ¬†Once it does it’s ready!