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One of the joys of living in the Middle East is unlimited access to mezze.

Mezze are starters which, in this part of the world, are as as varied and colourful as they are incredibly tasty.

They make your mouth water, your heart leap with joy and any main course pale into insignificance.

And (with considerable difficulty in choosing and no ranking order) here is my top 5:

1. Hummus with meat- nothing beats a place of fresh hummus with juicy pieces of charcoal grilled beef on top. Heaven.

2. Shanklish- aged cheese with finely chopped tomatoes, onion and olive oil. Sharp and delicious.   Shanklish salad

3. Mutabal- roasted aubergine salad. Great all time starter.

4. Makdus – pickled baby aubergines, stuffed with walnuts and sun dried peppers. Unreal.

5. Kibbeh – beef meatballs, fried or roasted. Hearty.

There is much more out there, of course.

But these five have a special place in my heart (and have featured so prominently in my menu of late that the 6 of us practically live together in joyous harmony and ignored caloric counts).

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