"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

Za'atar ( A Middle Eastern Spice Blend)

Born and raised in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), I have gorged on several Arabic and Mediterranean dishes. Some of my friends have been asking me to post recipes of Arabic cuisine and this is my first post of Arab cuisine.

Za'atar is a herb which is a blend of several flavoursome spices. Since I am now in India, it took us a while to go around town to pick up these spices, luckily not in vain. I finally reach the Godrej's Nature Basket in Hyderabad where I actually found the Za'atar spice blend. However as I learnt while living in Dubai, there are different proportions of blending these spices across the Levantine region specific to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine to make Za'atar. The result is that the flavour is slightly varied. My personal favourite is the Lebanese version. I decided to make my own Za'atar as I was unsure of the consistency of the packaged Za'atar at the store. The store also had all the herbs required to make Za'atar although I picked some of mine from Q-Mart that I visited the day before.

Za'atar can be topped on meats, rice , veggies and most importantly breads like Manakish (made of wholewheat or fine flour dough similar to Pita bread) or on Pies (thicker and smaller rounds). Again I prefer the Manakish wrap over pies. You can use the same dough mix. The difference lies in the rolling of the dough. To make Za'atar -

You need:
1/2 cup dried sumac *dried lemon peel can be used if unavailable
The ingredients
4 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
4 tbsp dried marjoram (a version of oregano however varied)
4 tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp of kosher salt/coarse salt

*Note: I tried making Za'atar with the above quantities of sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. However, the next time, I plan on using equal quantities of sumac,and thyme or may be more thyme and lesser quantity of sumac than thyme and at least 1/2 cup of sesame seeds which I felt was lacking in my blend.


Preparation Time: 10 minutes| Makes 3/4 of a small jar/bottle
  • If you do not have ready made roasted sesame seeds, you can dry roast it in a skillet (do not burn). Alternatively, you can also place it on a baking tray and toast it. However I find it takes lesser time to dry roast the sesame seeds and I can control the roasting process. It took me all of 2 minutes on a medium flame to do this.
Sesame seeds just landed on my skillet

Roasted Sesame Seeds
  • Semi-grind the roasted sesame seeds with the remaining ingredients
  • Store in a sterile, air tight jar or bottle and keep in a dry, cool and dark place. You can also store it in a zip-lock bag. 
If stored properly, this blend would last at least 3 months.

 *Note: as you can see from the mix above, the sumac was overpowering the blend, however I wanted to have the Lebanese mixture, so next time I will increase thyme and reduce the sumac quantity. Also I will add more sesame seeds.

Za'atar all bottled up ready to rest
When using the Za'atar on bread, take the required quantity of Za'atar and add olive oil, mix well and top on your favourite bread!

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