An Arabian Feast – 7 dishes prepared in just 1 hour. Stress free, crowd pleasing, exotic, super cost efficient and make ahead. Oh, and incidentally gluten free. I can’t think of a single reason why you shouldn’t try this menu for the next time you have a party!
“An Arabian Feast – 7 dishes, 1 hour of preparation, cost efficient, easy and make ahead. My favourite menu for feeding a crowd!”
This menu will be very familiar to my friends because it is my “go to” spread when I’m entertaining 12+ people. I recently single handedly prepared this for 50 people (though this did take more than 1 hour as I had to make 4x the quantity of each dish!). I started writing all the reasons why I love this menu and it started to get really lengthy so I thought it would be more efficient to just list the high points:
- Fast and easy – it takes 1 hour to prepare 3 starters, 2 meat dishes, 2 salads + 1 sauce which can be prepared the day before. Then all that’s required to be done is to grill the meat just before serving (or you can even grill ahead, the meat stays really moist);
- Prepare ahead – other than grilling the meat, everything can be made ahead by a day (or more in most cases);
- Everyday Ingredients & Cost efficient – all the ingredients are everyday ingredients you can get at any supermarket. Plus there are common ingredients across all the dishes. This menu will feed 8 people very generously (12 people if you increase the lamb/chicken by 50%) and costs around A$40 – $45 (~ US$30 – $35) which I think is great value for a feast like this;
- Pantry Essentials – I think you’ll be surprised how many of the spices and herbs you already have in your pantry. Though Middle Eastern food is often thought of as quite “exotic”, the most common spices are things like cumin, coriander and paprika which are used in many cuisines including Mexican, Spanish and Asian cuisine;
- Unique and exotic – I think this is quite a unique menu. It’s quite modern too. These dishes are inspired by chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Karen Martini, both of whom are known for their contemporary (and traditional) Middle Eastern and Arabic dishes;
- Eat with your hands – you can get away with serving this with just napkins which is really convenient when hosting large numbers! If you are using large pieces of lebanese bread (which I was), just cut them into quarters so they are easy to make and hold in your hand rather than needing a plate;
- Flavour Explosions and Freshness – this menu has a balance of “flavour explosions” (the chicken and kebabs), rich and creamy (hummus and marinated feta) and freshness (the salads); and
- Fragrant and Colourful – when it comes to food, we smell first then we eat with our eyes. Every single time without fail, someone comments on the smell when the meat is grilling! And the bright fresh colours always brings a smile to my face!
“All these dishes are made with everyday ingredients you can get from any supermarket. I think you’ll be surprised how many of the spices you already have in your pantry.”
You will be amazed how fast and easy it is to prepare this feast! This is what’s on the menu (click for the recipe):
1. Hummus (5 minutes) – just whizz up chick peas, tahini (sesame paste – usually in the spreads or health food section of your supermarket), olive oil, garlic and lemon juice until smooth. Can be made ahead up to 2 days (keeps for a week, but is best made closer to serving day).
2. Chargrilled Vegetable Platter (Homemade Vegetable “Antipasto”) (15 minutes) – Slice vegetables of choice, cook until charred on grill or stove with just salt, pepper and olive oil. Make ahead (day before) or on the day. Serve drizzled with olive oil and Yoghurt Sauce on the side.
3. Herb & Chili Marinated Feta (5 minutes) – dice feta into cubes, drizzle over olive oil, crushed garlic and your choice of herbs, finely chopped chili, lemon zest. I like to use a soft feta (like Danish feta) so it can easily be spread onto bread with a knife, but sometimes I make it with hard Greek feta too. Make ahead (day before) or on the day.
Serve with pita / lebanese bread.
FOR THE MEN TO GRILL
4. Chicken Sharwarma (5 minutes prep) – thigh fillets marinated overnight in spices, olive oil and lemon juice. The spice mix marinade will only take you minutes to make. Then on the day, grill, rest then slice to serve on pita bread with salad.
5. Lamb Koftas (10 minutes prep) – mix ground lamb (mince), spices and breadcrumbs. Shape into sausages and thread onto skewers. Can be prepared ahead.
Stuff into pita bread with salad and a drizzle of Yoghurt Sauce (included in the Chicken Sharwarma, Lamb Koftas and Chargrilled Vegetable Platter recipes).
BECAUSE WE MUST HAVE GREENS
….and cater for Vegetarians….
Both these salads are great for stuffing into pita breads with the grilled meat. The chickpea salad is a great meat free alternative for stuffing into pita breads.
6. Spiced Chickpea Chopped Salad (15 minutes) – chopped tomato, cucumber and red onion topped with chickpeas coated in a spice mix, herbs and a fresh lemon zest dressing. The dressing and chickpeas can be made the day before but the salad is best chopped on the day. I have made it up to 12 hours before serving and it was fine. The tip to make ahead is to scoop out the watery centre of the tomatoes before chopping them. This helps keep the salad fresh for longer.
7. Shredded Cabbage, Carrot and Mint Salad (10 minutes) – if you have a tool to julienne the carrots (I slice the cabbage by hand), this takes just 5 minutes to chop.
A SWEET ENDING
While the Baklava does take time to assemble, it is actually quite straight forward and is an impressive dessert that lasts for days – and feeds a crowd! The Semolina Cake is very straight forward to make – and the best part isn’t pouring the hot syrup over, it’s poking tons and tons of holes in the surface of the cake!!
* All the savoury recipes are entirely gluten free. Use gluten free flatbreads.
* The same Yoghurt Sauce recipe is used for the Chargrilled Vegetable Platter, Chicken Sharwarma and Lamb Koftas. So just make one big batch. This also saves on preparation time.
So truth be told, the total preparation time adds up to 1 hour and 5 minutes, but I rounded it down to 1 hour! Love to hear what you think! Drop a comment below if you have any comments at all. (Note: excludes desserts which I subsequently added)
Happy chopping, marinating and grilling! – Nagi