Olive oil and salt and pepper are put on to the table along with pickled hot green peppers, and the traditional drink with mezze is arak. The quantities given would (with Arab bread) be enough for four people as a starter, if you are making only a couple of the dishes – and about eight, if you are serving most of them, with accompaniments. Shopping from home… the salt of the earth the cheese… DINING 7 PIECE Caroline Slack reports This attractive dispenser jug is nicely designed and highly practical. The slide-back spout, operated by thumb on the handle, ensures that the contents remain fresh and, if knocked over, donâ€™t spill. It is ideal for picnics or childrenâ€™s meals. Â£8.95, from Home Age, Thomas Neal Centre, Earlham Street, Covent Garden, WC2 (tel: 0171-379 5064). From a restaurant that has been influential in making Italian food so popular in this country comes the newly-published The River Cafe Cookbook.