Za’atar is one of the key flavours from the area of cuisine close to my heart, typical in so many Levantine dishes and homes. You can read more details about za’atar here, but in short:
Za’atar can refer to wild thyme or dried thyme alone, or to a herb and spice mix in which thyme is king. If you read a recipe that states za’atar being required, it can easily require just thyme, but if you use the whole mix, that will work too!
I’ve tried many many versions of za’atar, it is typically traditionally a mix of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac and salt, often including oregano and/or marjoram, sometimes including coriander seeds or cumin seeds…it’s one of those things that every home in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, all over the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, will have their own safely guarded version of making. And of course, everyone’s is the best!
It can be used as a condiment, put on the table next to your salt and pepper, and sprinkled liberally over everything! Or mixed with olive oil to create a dip, or spread over flatbreads to make manaeesh. Or added to sandwiches of feta and salad…the possibilities are endless.
Za’atar boasts lots of health benefits from its lovely ingredients, and is said to increase your intelligence – what’s not to like?!
And of course, at this time of year, it could also create a homemade gift 🙂
I haven’t liked all of the various versions I’ve tried, so it was time to make my own and I read a recipe recently including cumin seeds, and having bought fresh thyme at the market, i made it this weekend.
So my version includes equal amounts of sesame seeds and cumin seeds, lightly toasted and cooled; a smaller amount of sumac, an even smaller amount of salt, and lots and lots of fresh thyme leave stripped from the stalks. You can chop up the leaves and blend it all in a food processor, but I roughly chopped the thyme by hand and stirred it all together. You can also use dried thyme instead of fresh.
You can play around with quantities and what you add or don’t, it’s all about your own taste, I’m really happy with this mix and have been throwing it over everything I’ve eaten since!
This was yesterday’s lunch, grilled aubergines with za’atar. I added the za’atar for the last couple of minutes only and kept an eye on it, otherwise it would burn. I ate these with some freshly made chunky mutabal and muhammara.
I hope your week is going well 🙂