A while ago I bought If Destroyed Still True #6 from Nine and at the same time I got Veganistan, which is a cookzine about Middle Eastern and Maghreb food. This combined with Veggiestan, which the kids bought 18saughtonmains for Christmas, is making me very excited about a way of cooking I’m not especially familiar with but which has lots of good milk free recipes.
Being me the first thing I turned to was the bread recipes. The one that caught my eye first is a flatbread with za’atar on top. Google will give you lots of info about za’atar which is both a Palestinian name for wild thyme that grows in Palestine and a spice blend which is very person specific – everyone seems to have a slightly different one true version. All of them have dried thyme, sesame seeds and sumac but other details vary. I decided to stick with the one from the zine, especially as I went totally off piste with the bread because I like my olive oil bread wetter than her recipe.
In Edinburgh we have found sumac at Jordan Valley and the Halal shop on Gorgie Road. It gives a sourness to the mix which is like nothing else I’ve ever tasted.
1/4 cup sumac
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tsp salt
Toast the sesame seeds in a small (dry! no oil needed) pan, keeping them moving and taking off the heat once they start to brown. Put them in a mortar and pestle and grind, which makes them smell amazing. Add the other ingredients and mix. Store in a jar or zip bag for up to 6 months, though it’s unlikely you’ll need to keep it that long.
Manakish bi za-atar
500g bread flour
5g dried yeast
320ml/g water (weight is more accurate, but it’s flatbread so don’t worry too much)
50g olive oil
1/2 cup za’atar mixed with enough olive oil to make it into a paste.
Put the oven on at 250C. Mix the flour, salt and yeast, add the water and olive oil and bring together. Knead until smooth. Leave to sit for an hour or so (actually, you can cook it quicker if you’re in a hurry but the bread will be nicer the longer you leave it), then divide into 10 balls and let them sit for a further 10 minutes. Flatten and roll with a rolling pin so it’s nice and thin. As you can tell, I didn’t worry much about shape. Put the za’atar on top, spreading it fairly evenly. cook in the hot oven for about 10 minutes. brush with more oil is it seems a little dry. Eat hot or cold and wonder why sour is so rare a taste in European cooking.