For those who like Middle Eastern restaurants, there is nothing like the moment when the waiter enters, laden with dips, salads and pita and proceeds to cover every available space on your table with a vast array of colors, smells, textures and tastes. It really sets you up for the evening ahead and for many just the starter is quite enough.

If you are looking to recreate this moment for your dinner party or just for your personal pleasure here are five great dip or salad ideas for you to conjure up.

  1. Hummus – Hummus is a general term for ground chickpeas. There are so many different varieties ready to be scooped up with warm pita bread. There is basic hummus, homestyle which has a little more texture, hummus masabacha, hummus with a piquant sauce, hummus sriracha and hummus za’atar to name just a few. You can’t get bored with hummus!
  1. Tehina- This is a sesame based sauce that is great for drizzling over falafel or salad. It is often also used to add a nutty flavor to hummus. The Middle East’s answer to ketchup but with a lot less sugar!
  1. Eggplant – Eggplant can be served cooked straight from the grill or it comes in an array of different dips. Some of the most popular dips are eggplant in mayonnaise, Thai style and of course Babaganush!
  1. Moroccan Carrot Salad – Depending on the chef, these can be small pieces of carrot or slices of carrot, covered in oil and spices. A great Moroccan dish that will tingle the tastebuds. 
  1. Zucchini Pate – A more delicate addition to the table. Another great use for your pitta or to tone down some of the more spicy dishes.

Of course there are loads more to choose from and within each dip or salad there are regional varieties. No two establishments have the same hummus! One of the great things about most of these salads is that they are quite healthy, gluten free and vegan.

Obtaining great dips outside of a restaurant if you don’t want to go to the trouble of producing a variety of dips in your kitchen has never been easier. Every supermarket, delicatessen or grocery store will sell an array of these products. Sometimes they will be made on site but more often they will be made in a factory. Shamir Salads based in Israel has been producing refrigerated salads and dips since 1974 and are one of the leaders in their field, producing a vast range of delicious products under their own name and also for others.

So next time you want to recreate the taste of the Middle East in your own dining room, you can either slave over the dishes in your kitchen or head down to your local supermarket, head over to the refrigerated section and grab a basket full of goodies!