Easy mezze for Mother’s Day: Simple recipes for the occasion

Jess Murphy: Easy, addictive lamb koftas, grilled aubergine, and beetroot dip

Lamb koftas

Lamb koftas


Everyone has their favourite aunt growing up and I was lucky enough to have someone who’s a bit of a heroine in the kitchen. Her name is Aunty Joce, from Camberly in Otago in the South Island of New Zealand. When I was a kid that seemed like a million miles away from my hometown, Wairoa.

She came to live near us after a brief stint teaching out in Tonga. Aunty Joce was like a second mother to me and pretty much a legend in the teaching world. She’s semi-retired now and a keen gardener and orchid grower. After selling the farm mum has moved down the road from her so I’m super excited that when I get to go home I will have all my family in the same place again.

I grew up with my cousins Hannah, Stu and Sam, climbing trees, duck shooting, fishing, swimming in the river and going to the beach. You couldn’t really wish for a more ideal Kiwi childhood. Aunty Joce would take us wherever we wanted to go.

Family gatherings around her house were legendary: there were bread baskets filled with smoked oysters and fish in a white sauce, hanger steaks, and desserts covered in squirty cream, which still are some of my favourite things on Earth to eat.

But that was the 1980s, guys. Let’s bring the Mother’s Day party up to date with some magnificent meze. These lamb and garlic koftas are straightforward to make and strangely addictive. While aubergines can be a bit of a mushy puzzle, this way they are a joy – and I think everybody will find that Velvet Cloud sheep-milk-based yogurt I use in my beetroot dip a far superior alternative to cream from a can. The yogurt is available in SuperValu and other selected stores across the country.


This is the ultimate one-bowl wonder – apart from the frying pan, the oven tray, and what you use to chop the veg. Probably people will need plates and cutlery, but you get where I’m going with this, right?

Serves four
400g good lamb mince
2 small red onions, finely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
100g fresh mint
100g fresh parsley
1tbsp ground cumin
1tbsp ground coriander
Zest of 2 lemons
75g feta
50g ricotta
1 large egg
Salt and pepper to season

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with clean hands. Set aside for two hours to let the mixture infuse.

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Shape little ovals about the size of a meatball until all of the mixture is used up. Drizzle with olive oil and brown in a pan before finishing in the oven for a further 20 minutes. 


Grilled aubergine with tahini and dukkah
Grilled aubergine with tahini and dukkah

If you are making the dukkah – a nutty spiced mix from Egypt – it is worth noting it keeps really well and is great for a little present, so store in an air-tight container. No one wants stale nuts on their hands.

Serves four
3 aubergines, halved lengthwise, then chargrilled or roasted

For the dukkah
15g ground coriander seeds
10g cumin
10g fennel seeds
75g blanched hazelnuts, roasted
75g skinless pistachios
35g toasted sesame seeds
10g black pepper
25g Achill Island sea salt

For the tahini drizzle
50ml tahini paste
50ml hot water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
35ml maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste


For the dukkah
Start by placing toasted coriander seeds, cumin and fennel seeds into a mortar and crush to a fine powder.

Add the blanched hazelnuts and skinless pistachios. Lightly pound, leaving the nuts a little chunky, then proceed to add the toasted sesame, black pepper and sea salt and stir gently. You still want to be able to see the flakes of the sea salt in the mix.     

For the dressing
Put the tahini paste and water in a small bowl and whisk together. Depending on the quality tahini you have, you may have to add more hot water if it’s still too thick.

Stir until it comes together as a lovely dressing, then add your maple and garlic for seasoning. Tahini itself can be quite bland so remember to season very well.


Beetroot dip with a dash of Velvet Cloud yogurt
Beetroot dip with a dash of Velvet Cloud yogurt

“How do you milk a sheep?” I’m not that sure, but this sheep’s milk yogurt means that it must be worth the time. Velvet Cloud do cheese too – well worth seeking out.

Serves four
120g cooked beetroot
20ml apple cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic
60g hazelnuts
30ml lemon juice
1tbsp cinnamon powder
1tbsp sumac
25ml olive oil
50g Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt

Whizz everything except the Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt to a smooth yet rustic consistency. Put the mixture into a mound on a pretty plate and use a spoon to make a small well in the centre.

Pour the sheep’s milk yogurt in here like a little lake of deliciousness in the middle and drizzle with a peppery extra virgin olive oil.

Garnish with tangy leaves – mustard greens or rocket would do nicely.

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