If you have ever bought Za’atar outside of a Western supermarket, you will have noticed it is usually sold in massive bags nothing like those meagre homeopathic dosages you get in your local Sainsbury’s or Delhaize. Once I tried a Manoush, I finally understood why.
What I considered a general dusting of Za’atar over a slice of my homemade Sourdough slathered in some labneh turned out to be nothing but a shy sprinkle when compared to the blanketing with Za’atar that a Manoush gets. And it is simply glorious. The perfect thing to munch on for any Za’atar lover or flatbread lovers more generally.
If you have not yet come across Manakish (plural of Manoush), it is a flatbread popular across the Levantine, consisting of a simple yeasted dough which can have a variety of different toppings, a Za’atar and olive oil paste being my favourite. You can have it for breakfast, as a snack or as lunch. It is perfect as is but I like it even more when eaten together with the type of breakfast spread common across the Levantine: some sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, some white cheese, fresh herbs (mint is wonderful), some olives and salted chilies and some fresh fruit, all washed down with fresh tea. What is even better, the dough comes together quickly and if I am organised enough, I can get the dough started before my Saturday morning trip to the market. By the time I am back, have unpacked everything and pre-heated the oven, the dough (once stretched out and slathered in za’atar, olive oil and sea salt) will be ready for its moment in the
spotlight heat of the oven.
If you want to, you can read a bit more about Za’atar or even make your own Za’atar in case you don’t have any already – a Syrian cookbook I have suggests mixing the following:
1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
2 tbsp dried thyme
4 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp sumac
1 tsp salt
Notes: This makes 4 manakish – enough as a meal for 4 people if served as part of a larger spread, together with some white cheese like feta, maybe some hummus, some sliced vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers), fresh herbs, olives, pickled chillis and some fresh fruit. The dough is a simple yeasted dough enriched with some olive oil. You could also use your favourite pizza dough recipe if you prefer. Note that you can also prepare the dough in the evening the day before if you want to make these for breakfast – just place it right in the fridge after kneading and take it out of the fridge while the oven pre-heats.
For the dough
300g all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried active yeast
1 tbsp and 1 tsp olive oil
For the topping
4-8 tbsp Za’atar
4-8 tbsp olive oil
Add the flour, salt and yeast to a large mixing bowl. Stir together. Pour in the water and olive oil and stir into the dry ingredients until you have a shaggy ball of dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky (ca. 5-10 minutes). Return to the mixing bowl, cover and set aside somewhere warm to proof until the dough has doubled in size – this should take ca. 1.5-2h depending on how warm your kitchen is.
While the dough is proofing pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
For the Za’atar topping you can really use as little or as much as you like. I like generous amounts of Za’atar – if you would prefer a thinner coating then just use the smaller amount stated (i.e. 4 tbsp Za’atar to 4 tbsp olive oil for 4 manakish). In a small bowl, mix together the Za’atar, the olive oil and a generous sprinkle of sea salt.
Divide the dough into four and roll (or stretch the dough) out until you have four small rounds of dough, roughly 18-20 cm across. Carefully place 2 rounds of dough on each prepared sheet pan. Using the back of a spoon carefully spread a quarter of the Za’atar topping on each round of dough.
Bake the manakish for 5-7 minutes or until the crust is puffed up, the bottom is cooked and the crust is starting to brown. Keep an eye on the manakish in the last couple of minutes as they can start to colour quite quickly. Repeat for the second tray keeping the first two covered with a tea towel to keep them warm.