One of the things I like about living away from India is the avenues it has opened in food arena for me. Back in Bombay, I had never eaten Middle Eastern food. So when I first landed in Dubai, the concept of hummus, falafels, zaatar, sumac, molasses, labneh etc, were all quite new to me. And I couldn’t be much thrilled to play with different ingredients I hadn’t seen before in my new kitchen. In the course of years, I constantly made visits to my favorite restaurants in the city to know the flavors of Levantine cuisine understanding the basics of Middle Eastern cooking, follow blogs that focus in this area and watch many a you-tube episodes to brush myself with a couple of skills required in daily cooking. I am no expert yet but now, I can proudly do a few primary grub off the menu like falafels, pita sandwiches, zaatar breads, hummus, meat arayees and manakeesh. How glorious is that a feeling for an Indian!
Now, we have been eating manakeesh for a long time – either fetching it up from Al Mallah or Al Reef or simply making one at home. Akin to a pizza, this simple bread is the best to start rubbing on your bread-making abilities. Well, there is no pleasure as close to kneading your own bread and I urge that you do it at home as it is really worth the effort. Bread making is a therapeutic action we all should experience.
Manakeesh is easy to prepare and not only is a great snack but makes for a great lunchbox recipe that can be done a day in advance. It is usually topped with meat although I frequently opt for zaatar-olive oil mix and cheese as my favorite. Furthermore, zaatar is a beautiful fragrant blend of thyme, oregano, sesame and sumac that makes the seasoning oh-so sought after in many Levantine dishes. I know manakeesh is traditionally a breakfast item but I also like to do it for lazy dinners and serve with olives, labneh, veggies to the side to make it a complete meal on the go. I also prefer to keep them smaller in sizes to serve as quick bites for my family. Better still I keep Little A around to spread the toppings while I roll the dough. However, you can do large rounds just like pizza and slice them in equal parts with a pizza cutter when serving a huge crowd.
All in all, this recipe is a clear winner if you are looking for easy bread recipes, a meal to be eaten day in and day out or just pack it into your little one’s tiffin boxes.
I’ve made this cheese and zaatar bread using Grand Mills All Purpose flour that is super good for baking and gives amazing results. Here are the other four recipes I did in the month of November using the brand –
For more meal inspiration, check out #ToCandGrandMills on Instagram.
- Grand Mills All Purpose Flour - 2 cups
- Lukewarm water - 1/4 cup
- Sugar - 1/4 tsp
- Dry active yeast - 2 tsps
- Salt - 1/4 tsp
- Extra virgin olive oil - 2 tbsps
- Zaatar - 3/4 cup
- Olive oil - 1/3 cup
- Salt to taste
- Feta cheese - 50 gms
- Mozzarella - 1/3 cup
Combine water, sugar and yeast in a kneading bowl and let it rest for five minutes; until the mixture becomes foamy. If it doesn't, discard and start fresh.
Mix in flour, salt and olive oil. Knead with your fingers to form a soft dough. Turn it onto the working surface and knead for another few minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Place it into the greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise.
After 2 hours, the dough will double in size. In another bowl combine together zaatar, olive oil and salt. Preaheat oven to 200 Degrees C and line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide into equal balls. With a help of rolling pin, make circles about an inch thick.
Spread a tablespoon of zaatar-olive mixture topping over each circle, leaving 1/2 inch border from the sides. Crumble feta and sorinkle mozzarella. Bake for about 10 minutes, until brown and fully cooked. Serve warm.
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Disclosure : I am commissioned by Grand Mills to try their products and share my views. Regardless, I will only recommend those products I personally use and believe in. As always, above story and opinion remain my own.