Lebanese FlatBread: Manakish Zaatar
Every country or region has its own bread speciality. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ is an age-old prayer with a deep meaning.
” This prayer implies, also, that all the bread of the world is God’s! “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” The bread belongs to him, and what we need can become ours—only through his gift to us. We may take it and use it without asking him for it—but, if we do, we take that to which we have no right. Even the food is on our table, ready to be eaten—it is not yet ours until we have asked God for it. Courtesy: www.gracegems.com
How do I describe Middle eastern food ? Freshly cooked, aromatic, rich, rustic or lavish and wholesome! The women of the house are always busy making plentiful food for family and friends. Whether its popular Hummus or Moutabel, Kebab or Pilaf, or syrup drizzling Baklava and Semolina cake, every member of the family will have his/her favourite freshly prepared and served with warmth and gratitude.
Historical influences on Middle east food: Pistachios, figs and pomegranates from Persia, yoghurt and meat from Russia and North, spices / herbs like turmeric, cumin, masala from India, dumplings from Mongolia, sweet pastries and coffee from the Ottoman empire. Dates are a regional delicacy. Coffee and dates are served as a welcoming gesture.
While in Abu Dhabi, my warm-hearted, beautiful Lebanese neighbour often gave me a plate of home -cooked Lebanese food, over the shared kitchen wall.
Here is my recipe of Zaatar bread. Zaatar or thyme finds its way into curries, breads and soups. It has a strong aroma when baking with bread, filling the house with aroma!
Lebanese Zataar flatbread or Manakish Zataar
2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (fresh pack/tin)
salt /sugar – 1 spoon each
warm water – 1 cup
zaatar, dried mint, roasted sesame seeds as per choice
Put the yeast, sugar /salt into warm water and leave to ferment for 5 minutes. Put the flour, olive oil in a deep mixing bowl. Add the fermented yeast to the dough and slowly bind, pouring water as reqd. to make a soft dough. Wrap in cling foil or cover and keep aside for about an hour, and you will see it rise.
Pre heat the oven on slow at 225 deg. for 10 mins. Now take small balls of dough, roll on palm, flatten with rolling pin to desired size ( about 6 in. diameter). Sprinkle zaatar, and sesame seeds and mint. I would add a few drops of olive oil for extra goodness!
Prepare all flatbread and put in the oven to bake for 5-10 mins, till lightly browned. The strong aroma fills the air around! ( you may try to make different shapes of bread). I even made some spinach pockets using the same dough. Explore.
Traditional Semolina cake ( Nammoura)
A recipe given by my Lebanese neighbour. Thank you so much for all the hearty food made with love!
This is a traditional, peasant-style dessert, using semolina, sugar and yoghurt/milk. Ingredients one can find easily in the home. During Ramadan, the cake is often drizzled with rose water, honey or maple syrup for a sweet tooth and ++ calories! In Egypt, the cake is called Basbouka.
1 cup semolina
3 cups flour
1/2 cup oil
2 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup milk ( or yoghurt)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. turmeric ( natural yellow colouring)
Almonds, pine nuts optional.
Mix all the ingredients lightly, add oil into mixture and knead well.
Grease a baking tray /pan with oil. Put mixture into it , make a design on it using a fork and sprinkle some almonds or pine nuts. Bake in oven at 180. deg. till cake slowly turns brownish.
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