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What to drink with Middle Eastern food?

April 2, 2013

Middle Eastern wineFiona Beckett is a woman after my own heart – she is very interested in wine and passionate about cheese. A renowned journalist with a column in The Guardian, author of 23 books and co-founder of ‘Cheese School‘, Fiona also has a brilliant website dedicated to matching food and wine When she suggested I might like to write a guest post I did a cartwheel (sadly only in my imagination) and considered the topic; it seemed natural, having been an expat in the Gulf for almost 18 years (five of them in a dry country), to look at some dishes from a typical Middle Eastern meal:

Can you remember a time when hummus didn’t fill the end of every supermarket aisle and come in ten different flavours? Now Middle Eastern influences in food are ubiquitous and restaurants abound, but what should you drink with a Middle Eastern meal?

Typically you’ll be served a wide range of mezze to start, from creamy, smoky baba ganoush, lemon-sharp tabouleh with fresh herbs, a fattoush or bread salad dusted with tangy sumac, vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, earthy hummus, delicate pastries stuffed with cheese, spinach or meat, spicy chicken livers and fried kibbeh coated in crunchy, cracked wheat with a lamb and pine nut filling. Some restaurants may even serve raw mezze such as finely minced spiced raw lamb kibbeh or cubes of uncooked liver eaten with garlic sauce and mint leaves.

The mezze course is usually followed by grilled meats, cooked over charcoal, which means an array of lamb chops, kebabs both with cubed meats and spicy, minced kofta, chicken and beef. So given this vast array of flavours, what would be a good choice of wine?

To read the full story and explore the most extensive resource online about what to drink with different foods, please visit Fiona Beckett – Food and Wine Matching

Which wine or drink would you choose?

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  1. April 2, 2013 11:29 pm

    Interesting. Thanks for the link.



  2. April 2, 2013 11:50 pm

    Ahemm. Coughing discreetly….

    1- You drink Arak of course with Mezzah.

    2- You don’t eat raw liver with garlic. You eat raw liver with Ly’eh which is raw fat (lamb tail) + chopped parsley.

    3- You do not eat Allioli with Kebbeh Nayeh. It is with “minced” lamb meat “Habra Nayeh” that “some” people eat garlic sauce (Allioli=garlic+salt+olive oil). In fact the meat should not be called minced or passed through a processor at all but the meat should be pounded in a large stone mortar.

    The list and correct accompaniments are:
    – Kibbeh Nayeh with lashings of EVOO and White onions or green onions.
    – Kibbeh Nayeh Harra (Hot)
    – Habra Nayeh with lashings of EVOO and Allioli
    – Kafta Nayeh (minced raw Kafta)
    – Kasbeh Nayeh (Raw Liver) with chopped parsley and raw lamb fat
    – F’tileh (Raw lamb meat) with fresh mint leaves
    The new wave at restaurants, is to serve a selection on a wood plank and it is called Khasbeh.

    For the culinary precision. The main difference between Kebbeh Nayeh and Habra Nayeh is the former contains Bulgur (crushed Wheat) and the later does not. The Habra is lean meat while the Kibbeh contains raw fat.

    Now I am hungry.

    I thank you.

    • April 3, 2013 8:08 am

      Thanks for this – really very much appreciated – and yes now I’m hungry too! I do mention Arak in the full article on Fiona’s site – and my intention was to sum up what most people might be served at a ‘Middle Eastern’ feast…which might not always be precise in culinary terms, rather a collection of dishes that we now associate with this region. I’m really glad you explained about the different kibbeh and the raw mezze in detail though – very interesting indeed.

  3. April 3, 2013 12:10 am

    I actually think that most rosés go really well with Middle Eastern food. Although I don’t like rosé so would probably opt for a lightish red or possibly crisp white Burgundy?

    • April 13, 2013 11:53 am

      The latter is deeply appealing to me too

  4. April 3, 2013 12:34 am

    Surely … there are lots of Lebanese wines that would eloquently fall into the category of appropriate pairings? …

    • April 3, 2013 8:04 am

      Absolutely – (as mentioned in the full article and shown in the picture) – but think it’s interesting to look at all the options too…in the wider region and around the world…with and without alcohol.

  5. April 3, 2013 12:41 am

    I usually serve a Sancerre. I find it copes well with the spices. Lovely to see that bottle of Chateau Musar, it’s been 20 years since I lasted tasted one! 🙂

    • April 3, 2013 8:10 am

      Good choice Celia – and I’d love to open a bottle of Chateau Musar for you if you are ever in Dubai.

  6. Fiona Beckett permalink
    April 3, 2013 1:11 am

    Thanks so much for your post, Sally. It was great to have a fresh perspective on what to drink with middle-eastern food, especially the non-alcoholic options

    And do try Chateau Musar again, Celia. It’s still a fascinating and rewarding wine

    • April 13, 2013 11:53 am

      It was an honour and a pleasure Fiona. Your site is the definitive on food and wine matching

  7. April 3, 2013 9:50 am

    This is an interesting topic Sally!

  8. April 3, 2013 10:49 am

    How wonderful that you’ve done a guest post on Fiona’s blog. And indeed it is very interesting to read about what to drink with Middle-eastern food. I always tend to go for beer, just as I do with mexican food. I feel it adds a freshness and I would always fear a lot of wines would get overpowered by the flavours of the food. But then again I haven’t really eaten Middle-eastern food – the real Middle-eastern food anyway. Interesting …

    • April 13, 2013 11:55 am

      There’s a new artisan brewery in Lebanon called 961 – they do a pale ale which would be worth a try.

  9. April 3, 2013 11:38 am

    I do believe I would love Middle Eastern cuisine and wine pairing. Hope you have been keeping well Sally.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  10. April 3, 2013 12:11 pm

    Great post, Sally. And for those of you who haven’t followed the link, do read the full posting on Fiona’s excellent site. A great pairing of similar minds, I think.

    • April 13, 2013 11:57 am

      What a terrific comment – very much appreciated.

  11. April 4, 2013 8:46 pm

    Very interesting & thanks for the link too! 🙂 A great post, Sally!

  12. April 8, 2013 1:25 am

    What an insightful post. Very happy that I chanced upon your blog this evening

  13. April 10, 2013 9:28 pm

    Great write up! As I mentioned over there, the Musar is a really nice choice. Great wine!

    • April 10, 2013 9:31 pm

      Prefer the reds to the whites …thanks for the kind comment. Much appreciated.

  14. April 11, 2013 10:20 am

    This is indeed one interesting post… was confused whether to leave a comment in your blog or there!!!


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