Lebanon, United Arab Emirates – Za’atar Manakeesh


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by Adelina Aida

Manakeesh is a flat crispy bread topped with different seasonings and served with different sauces and vegetables. It goes well with the hummus and olives. The original bread is made by za’atar topping with some cheese on the top. It is like a pizza but in Arabian style. Its dough is different from the pizza and has only two or three toppings. In the Middle East, it is from the Lebanon dish. It is eaten in breakfast and also be served as a snack and even in lunch and dinners. It is a very simple but delicious dish. Not only za’atar is added but also cheese, tomatoes, olives, are added like the pizza toppings. Because it is also known as Arabian Pizza or Lebanon Pizza. It is served as a slice of bread but now it is served by cut into triangular pieces like a pizza. It can be a small pan-sized bread loaf or a larger size whole bread. It is also used as bread for sandwiches with different fillings. It is also modernized by a cut from the middle and filled with some meat pieces, sauces, and vegetables. It can be cooked in many varieties by simply changing the toppings with the same bread base made by Manakeesh dough.

It can be served with many different dishes. It can be formed into other varieties. It can be cooked by adding different toppings and different fillings. It as the main base of dough is the same, otherwise, we can change the flavors and ingredients of toppings. The base dough is different form the pizza dough in flavors and texture also. It is more like homemade bread or like normal bread, chapati, etc.

In Lebanon, Za’atar is the must for Manakeesh. As the traditional recipe, they follow their ancient recipe of making manakeesh by za’atar. Za’atar is the herb that is Thyme. It is added on the top of manakeesh with some cheese and that’s all. It is served with different ingredients and vegetables like hummus, olives, cucumber, olive oil.

LEVANT CUISINE

Levant cuisine is the sub cuisine of Middles East cuisine or Arabic cuisine. Arab cuisine is distributed among the different areas and regions. All the Arabic cuisine are interlinked with each other because of having the same origin. The dishes are originated from another region of Middles east are spread throughout the UAE.

This dish, Manakeesh is originated from Lebanon but now it is famous all over the Middles East. It is also loved outside the Middles east in Asia and West. Some dishes are very old so their cooking techniques are very different that cannot be copied now to get that exact flavor. But new techniques are easier to cook different dishes.

This dish is originated from ”LEVANT”. It is a very famous and national breakfast of Levantine cuisine.

LEVANT, having a large area of the Eastern Mediterranean. It has the given regions :

  1. Syria
  2. lybia
  3. Jordan
  4. Lebanon
  5. Israel
  6. Palastine, etc

ETYMOLOGY

The word Manakeesh is the Arabic word Manqushah. MANQUSHAH is formed by the word NAQUSH that means ”CRAVE OUT”.

Now the name means this dough preparation to crave out thyme herb over the manakeesh dough. The first time Manakeesh was made by Za’atar that is thyme herb. This is a very authentic name of the dish. Craving means to settle down the topping over the flattened dough, Fingertips, the fork is used so the toppings would set over the flattened dough.

So to Crave the dough for settling down the topping is the meaning of the names MANAKEESH.

It is also known by many other names like :

  1. Manaqish
  2. Manaquish
  3. Manakeesh
  4. Manooshe
  5. Man’ousheh
  6. Mankousheh

HISTORY OF MANAKEESH

This is originated in the Fertile Crescent. It was the dish of Levant cuisine. It is said that the dish was invented when hot flat surfaces or stones are used to cook flatbread. With the establishment of Brick Oven, the toppings are made on flatbread and then this Za’atar topped on bread is made and loved by many people. Sfiha is also a dish that was invented at that time. It became so popular so it spread all over the Middles East and also Ottoman Empire.

TABOON BREAD

Taboon is Levantine bread that is cooked in Oven or also known as Taboon or Tannur, Tandoor, etc. There is much bread made in Taboon so those bread are known as Taboon bread.

Taboon is the Oven made by Clay also known as Clay Oven. Now, these taboon ovens are made of Metals and they are a major part of cooking in Asia and the Middle East. The bottom of the oven is burned by either by burner or woods, etc.

ELEMENTS OF THE DISH

DOUGH/ FLATBREAD

The main basic and important element of the dish is Flatbread. This is made with all-purpose, flour, oil, some salt, and yeast to make it fluffy. The fermented dough is then used to flattened up by a rolling pin and then toppings are added.

There are two ways to make Manakeesh. One is that we can cook bread separately and the toppings are added and stick to the surface of the bread by adding some sauces and cheese. Another way is to crave the dough flattened and then toppings are added over the dough and cook all things together.

The second method is mostly used to cook manakeesh. Because cheese is added to melt and thyme herbs are added sometimes vegetables are also added on the top of the bread. So those need to cook with bread and make it assembled.

TOPPINGS

1.ZA’ATAR

Za’atar means thyme in the Arabic language. Za’atar is the herb mix with thyme, sumac, oregano, etc. Za’atar is a traditional spice of Lebanese dishes especially Za’atar manakeesh that has the main element is Thyme with some oregano, sumac, paprika, and toasted sesame seeds i.e black and white seeds.

This is added over the bread and then settle downed with some olive oil to make it evenly spread and the handmade carving on the top of the bread dough is also helpful in the stickiness of the herb mix to the dough.

2.CHEESE

Cheese is added as the glue to stick the herbs with the dough. Only two kinds of cheese are added int his manakeesh dish that is :

  • Akkawi cheese
  • Kashkaval cheese

Ther are usually made of Goat’s milk, yellowish in color, and has a unique taste. It is most popular in Arabic dishes and many Levantine cuisines so these cheese kinds are added in Manakeesh.

3.SUMAC

Sumac is also a herb made up of a flower that is very bright pink in color. Sumac is a dried flower powder that has a pungent aroma. These flowers are dried and fine powder is made. It is used in many dishes as the herb, seasonings, etc. It is also used in tanning and dying because of the nice pink bright color.

4.MARJORUM

Marjoram is the plant that’s leaves are used in many dishes either dried leaves or fresh leaves.

5.MEAT

Meat is also very versatile and used in topping the dish. Lamb mince is used especially used in this dish. There are mainly few meat varieties for this dish like :

  • Mutton mince
  • Beef mince
  • Chicken mince ( very rare )

6.VEGETABLES

Vegetables are also added with some cheese and Za’atar of course.

  1. Spinach
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Mushrooms
  4. Olives
  5. Corn, etc.

SERVED WITH

This is served with different sauces and some spices like :

  • Laban
  • Hummus
  • Olive oil
  • Yogurt cheese
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Sumac onions
  • Sesame seeds paste
  • Olives
  • Tomatoes and cucumber
  • Jameed sauce

GARNISHING

Garnish this dish with many simple ingredients for nice color and taste :

  • Parsely
  • Olive oil
  • Pomegaranate seeds
  • Jameed ( yogurt dip )

INGREDIENTS FOR DOUGH

  1. all purpose flour = 2 cups
  2. Oil = 4 tbsp
  3. Salt = 1 tbsp
  4. Yeast instant = 2 tbsp
  5. Sugar = 2 tbsp
  6. Warm water = 1 cup for keading

INGREDIENTS FOR MINCE TOPPING

  1. Mutton mince = 250 grams
  2. Tomato Paste = 6 tbsp
  3. Salt = 1 tbsp
  4. Crushed red chilies = 1 tbsp
  5. vegetable oil = 4 tbsp
  6. Cinnamon stick = 1
  7. Garlic chopped = 2 tbsp

OTHER TOPPINGS

  1. Za’atar herb mix = 4 tbsp
  2. Sesame seeds = 2 tbsp
  3. Cheese = 1 cup
  4. Sumac powder = 2 tbsp

GARNISHING

  • Cilantro = few leaves
  • Olive oil = 2 tbsp

COOKING METHOD

  1. For dough preparation, add dry ingredients like flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix them well and add oil into the dry powder mixture.
  2. Now take warm water so it will activate the yeast. Knead a thick dough so it may ferment after.
  3. Place this dough in the warm enviroenment for 30 minutes to ferment the dough.
  4. On other hand, take a cooking pot and add oil into the pot with all the lamb mince.
  5. Start cooking it for 5 minutes and then add tomatoes paste with spices and cook it on medium to high flame.
  6. It is easy to cook mince so we need to remove all the moisture from the mince topping while cooking on high flame.
  7. Take the dough out and flat it in the pan. We need to make grooves and depression by finger to settle down the topping over it.
  8. Now when mince is ready, dough is ready. Its time to assemble all the things together.
  9. Take mince on the top of the flatened dough and over it with other seasonings as well like za’atar, oregano and sumac powder.
  10. Place this manakeesh in the pre heated oven for 20 minutes.
  11. Serve it with hummus and olives.
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