Dee - July 2014’s featured ingredient was Za’atar, in its spice-mix form. There is a fresh herb with the same name, but I have never seen it anywhere.
The spice mix is a particular favourite of mine, and it appeared as a garnish for the labneh balls in Tasting Jerusalem #15, and also as an ingredient in my own za’atar spiced flatbread recipe in Tasting Jerusalem #22. It is a very versatile spice mix, and as well as being included in a bread dough and as a garnish, it can also be mixed with olive oil and spread on top of flatbreads, or simply with bread dipped in olive oil then za’atar.
There isn’t a recipe for it in the book, but it is becoming more widely available in the shops now. It is also quite simple enough to make and as with so many Jerusalemite condiments, recipes can vary quite a bit. The essentials though are Sumac and Sesame seeds. The following recipe, which I use, makes a small jar’s worth, and will last for ages;
50g Sesame Seeds, toasted
2 Tablespoons dried Marjoram
2 Tablespoons dried Thyme
2 Tablespoons Sumac
Pinch of Salt
Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar
The recipe from the book that I chose to make was on page 36, following on from an essay all about the spice mix on the previous two pages.
It was simple enough to make, but resulted in a multi layered dish featuring some quite strong flavours that all complimented each other very well. I left the skin on the squash, to help it keep its shape as it roasted in the oven with the onion. The specified time of about 35 minutes in the oven was fine and the vegetables gained a soft but tasty consistency, aided by the seasoning.
While they were roasting I made the tahini sauce, leaving out the garlic. I didn’t want it to be too thick so added a little more water than the recipe stated to achieve the pouring consistency that I wanted. Toasted Pine Nuts and chopped parsley were then added, with the za’atar going on at the end as a final garnish.
The final dish looked impressive as well as tasting great, and as mentioned before there were layers of distinctive flavours created very simply, making the dish an instant hit with both Jay and me. We made double the quantity of the recipe and enjoyed it for lunches during most of last week.
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