"This is a journey of my life since I was all of 12 yrs when I started my hand in cooking to now with displays of my learning and creations of recipes from around the world. My inspiration and role model has always been my Mum who has always created dishes from around the world and excellently well. I do not believe I would ever match to her culinary skills. I remember the times she could cook and bake almost 4-5 dishes in one go without ever letting one go under cooked or burnt! I was born and raised in Dubai, UAE and recently moved to India for family reasons. Kitchenette just means that over the decades, my kitchen has changed from that of my mum's to my uncle and aunt's, to my home in UAE and now in India. Pala't'te, describes both global cuisines ('Palatte'-diverse flavours) and pleasing diverse 'Palates'."

Friday, 15 June 2012

Manakish (Levantine Flatbread) or Pies with Za'atar

Manakish (pron.) Manaeesh is a flatbread such as pita bread made with yeast. It can be had as a wrap topped with variations such as Za'atar, Minced lamb, Cheese(such as Akawieh-a white brine cheese or Kashkawan), Chili or Spinach. I used to have a lot of the Cheese Manakish when I was carrying my little one Izzy.

Za'atar Manakish

There are various ways to make this dough but in essence it does not vary much from the Pita bread.

To make the Manakish dough or Pie dough,

You need:
Active dry yeast with sugar
  • 2 tbsp of dry active yeast or 1 packet of dry yeast
  • 21/2 cups of fine flour or unbleached all purpose flour or whole wheat flour *In India we do not easily get the all-purpose flour
  • Additional 1/2 cup of flour for the kneading process
  • 1-2 cups of lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • Chopped olives (optional)
* My mum adds eggs, but I will use that when I make my Pizza dough just as she does!

The make:

Cooking Time: 20 minutes| Preparation Time: 1 hr, 10 minutes|Makes 6 Manakish, 4 medium pies

The dough: 

Note: This dough can be used to make the Manakish wrap, pies and even Pita bread (just remember it takes 2 hrs more for the Pita bread to rest)

  •  Whisk together the yeast, 1/4 cup of lukewarm water, sugar and 1 tbsp of the flour and let it rest for 10 minutes. It should have a foamy creamy texture however if it does not then your yeast has gone bad, so restart with new yeast. 
  • Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to it the mix.
  • Next take a bowl with the flour and salt and mix well. 
  • Pour the yeast mix into a large bowl and slow keep adding the flour mix one cup at a time and knead well. You will find the mixture to be a bit stickier than the normal Italian pizza dough but that is fine.
  • On the oiled bowl
  • Coat a clean bowl with a dab of olive oil and move the dough to the bowl, cover with a plastic wrap/cling film and allow it to rest and rise for about an hour and a half.

Dough ready to be wrapped

Za'atar topping:

Since I recently made the Za'atar spice blend, I decided to use the same.
  • Take 4 tbsp of Za'atar in a bowl with 2-3 tbsp of EVOO and  mix well.
  • Set aside

    On dusted work top
  • Dust some flour lightly on a wooden base or your clean worktop. Next take the dough onto the dusted base and knead it well, it may still be slightly sticky as you are kneading (dust flour as require but do not overdo). Divide the dough mix as required and roll out into your preferred size. Roll out the Manakish into a perfect or almost perfect round. I used my Chapati board(Indian Flatbread board and used its size as a natural measure).
Dusted worktop

Note: If you are making Pies, you need the dough rolled out to be thicker and smaller probably enough to cover the center of the board only, you can make it as small as you need for the pie as mini pies as well, just make sure it is thick. In fact you would not need to roll it using a rolling pin, just make it  into a small ball, hand mould it to the size you require and use the palm of your hand to flatten.
Rolling out the dough

Kneading one more time

Top with Za'atar mix

  • Top with the Za'atar mix and place it in your oven on its base or a tray. Use the lower rack in case you have different levels. I placed mine on the base directly and kept the flame at medium. It literally takes not more than 2 minutes to cook. In case your oven does light on top, then pop it into the microwave for a minute on grill/bake. The settings on each oven is different so try it for one Manakish and see how it works for you.
In the oven

  • Top with chopped olives if you like.
  • After the manakish is cooked, you can fold it into a wrap (you can use parchment paper to cover and pack it as an evening snack for your loved one) . 
Just out of the oven

Side profile

Close up

Traditionally the oven is brick based and the bread is placed close to the fire. It literally takes one minute.
Normally the ones with lamb mince as a topping is usually made with diced tomatoes and vegetable oil and served with pickles or ground pepper and labneh or yoghurt. It is normally quite heavy and can be had as a  lunch or dinner meal.

Za'atar Manakish served up
I also tried the Za'atar topping on a Mediterranean bread I bought from Q-Mart. It had sundried tomatoes, herb onion, Pizza Sauce and the usual wheat flour, sugar, salt, etc.
Za'atar on Mediterranean bread
Hope you enjoy this as a snack, breakfast or meal! If using the mince meat (Lahem) option or for vegetarians egg plant or zucchini as toppings, it could be had as a meal on its own or with some Hummus and Fattoush on the side. Incidently the Mince Meat Manakish is called Lahem Bajeen in Arabic which is ground fillet mignon on flatbread. The Lebanese version is quite savoury where the meat is cooked with tomatoes and shallots. Try with with the variants of toppings. Bon Appetit...

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