middle eastern inspired cuisine, hummus on a table dinner
Image: Toa Heftiba

How To Make A Healthy Mediterranean-Inspired Dinner Menu

From hummus to lemon cake, have your friends over for a delicious feast!

At the start of the year, the Mediterranean diet was named the best overall diet for 2019. In addition to receiving this title, the Mediterranean diet also came in first place for the best diabetes diet, best healthy eating diet, best heart-healthy diet, best plant-based diet and easiest diet to follow. You may be thinking, what can’t this diet do?

If you aren’t familiar with the Mediterranean diet, it isn’t a structured diet, instead, its an eating pattern which emphasises predominately consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil, herbs and spices and then adding in some fish and seafood a couple of times per week and poultry, eggs, cheese and yoghurt in moderation while limiting sweet foods and red meat for special occasions. However, the Mediterranean diet isn’t just known for being healthy but also for the sense of community and belonging, promoted by this way of life. 

Here’s how to create a Meditteranean Diet Inspired Menu for a dinner in. If you still need convincing, remember, red wine is very much encouraged! Need I say more?

Roasted Cauliflower Hummus With Vegetable Crudités

hummus recipe
Image: Kyle Brinker

This is the perfect plant-based starter to serve to guests to excite their taste buds for what’s to come. The roasted cauliflower adds a touch of sweetness and creamy texture alongside the chickpeas and tahini. Better still, this dip can be made the day before, leaving you more time to mingle with guests!

Serves 6 – 8

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook: 40min

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil + extra if needed
  • 1 head cauliflower cut into florets
  • 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1/3 cup tahini paste
  • ¼ cup macadamia nuts, chopped
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • pinch smoked paprika, to serve
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • vegetable crudités, to serve

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C, line a baking tray with baking paper, drizzle cauliflower with olive oil and bake for 30-40min until tender, set aside. In a food processor add cauliflower, chickpeas, macadamia nuts, lemon juice, garlic, tahini and a pinch of chilli flakes, blend until smooth, slowly adding extra virgin olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste.

Spoon into a serving dish, sprinkle with smoked paprika and serve with vegetable crudités.

BBQ Sumac Calamari with Freekeh and Herb Salad

You’re almost guaranteed to find calamari on any restaurant menu in the Mediterranean, so it only makes sense that it gets a feature here! This recipe comes straight from my Falling in Love with Food cookbook and I hope your family will love it as much as mine do. If calamari doesn’t float your boat, it can be replaced with salmon, white fish fillets or even chicken.  To turn this into a vegetarian main, serve the salad with pan-fried halloumi or tofu.

calamari recipe
Image: Kenrick Mills

Serves: 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 – 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 calamari hoods with wings attached, skin removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ tsp. sumac
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp. lemon juice, plus wedges to serve
  • 2 cups freekeh, cooked (use brown rice or quinoa for a GF version)
  • 300g broad beans shelled (or 400g can cannellini beans rinsed and drained)
  • 1 preserved lemon, rind only, finely shredded
  • 1 bunch radishes, sliced
  • ⅓ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • ⅓ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 4 tbsp. pepitas
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

In a large bowl combine the calamari, garlic, sumac and 2 teaspoons each of the olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste, toss until the calamari is well coated then set aside. Meanwhile, cook the broad beans (if using) in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh in cold water and drain again. Slip broad beans from their pods and add to the freekeh with the preserved lemon, parsley, mint and the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and sumac. Season lightly and toss to combine.

Preheat a barbecue or chargrill pan to high. Chargrill radish for 1 – 2 minutes, then adds to the broad bean mix. Cook calamari for 2 – 2½ minutes on each side until tender and lightly charred. Divide freekeh between plates and scatter over the pumpkin seeds. Top with calamari and serve with lemon wedges.

Greek Village Avocado Salad

There is no such thing as a Mediterranean menu without a Greek village salad and equally, there is no such thing as an avocado less Aussie Christmas, so why not have the best of both worlds? Serve this vibrant salad in the centre of the table for a pop of color and hit of refreshment.

avocado salad recipe
Image: Prudence Earl

Serves 4 – 6 as a side

Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 punnets grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • An avocado, pip and skin removed, diced
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • red capsicum, diced
  • A small red onion, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives
  • 100g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • pinch salt and pepper

Method:

In a small bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients, adjust seasoning to suit. In a large bowl, add all of the salad ingredients, add dressing and combine well. Serve immediately or store in the fridge until ready to serve (Tip: dress just before serving).

Honey, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Lemon Cake

You cannot go past the combination of honey, olive oil and lemon when talking about the Mediterranean inspired desserts. This cake is sure to be a crowd-pleaser and can be decorated with cherries and berries for an extra Mediterranean recipe feel. You can also find this recipe in my Falling in Love with Food cookbook.

lemon cake recipe
Image: Charles Deluvio

Serves: 8 – 12

Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes

Cooking: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 250g honey
  • 250ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 250ml milk
  • 200g quinoa flour sifted
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • Lemon decoration
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin slices
  • 1 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • Vanilla yoghurt
  • 200g full cream yoghurt
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, seeds removed

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C. Cover a circular cake tin with baking paper. In a large bowl, mix together the honey, eggs and sea salt. In a jug combine the olive oil, milk, lemon juice and zest and gently combine the mixture together. Fold through the flour and baking powder and pour into the cake tin. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown. In a small bowl, mix together the yoghurt and vanilla bean, set aside. 

For the lemon decoration, mix ingredients together in a bowl, place in a baking dish and bake for 15 minutes at 180C or until golden brown. Once the cake is cooled, decorate with baked lemon slices and serve with a dollop of vanilla yoghurt on top.

While you’re here, check out where to get the one nutrient we all need more of

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