Hot for teacher

[Recipe 1] ZA’ATAR (Middle Eastern spice mix) transforms into
[Recipe 2] MANOUSHE BI ZA’ATAR (Lebanese pizza with za’atar) 
Our house was like a mini spice market last weekend. We made an absolute mega batch of Za’atar, mainly for my boy’s teachers for Christmas. It was 37 degrees (99°F) outside on Saturday – blech – the perfect weather for indoor action. The boys were on filling and lid-application duty, and we had music blaring in the background. See two songs from our playlist* below.
I’ve based my Za’atar recipe on this one, and added cumin and cinnamon – not really authentic additions, but they make for a smoother tasting za’atar methinks.
Za’atar is my favourite Middle Eastern spice blend – it’s oh so versatile! You can scatter it on roast vegies, use it as a dry rub on meat, sprinkle it over fatoush or fetta salad, or stir it through Greek yogurt as a quick dip. One of my favourite brekkies is scrambled eggs sprinkled with za’atar, served in a wrap with fresh tomato and rocket (arugula). Honestly, when we have a batch in the cupboard, it gets scattered on just about anything!
Recipe 2 is another beautiful, simple way to use Za’atar, Manoushe bi za’atar (Lebanese pizza with za’atar). We buy this regularly from Oasis and A1 Bakery, but when time permits, we love making our own.
If you’re not particularly crafty, or you don’t have the time (understandable at this mental time of year) a jar of Za’atar is an easy, inexpensive home-made gift. I bought all the fabric scraps at the swoon-worthy Amitié Textiles – some were already cut to size! Popped down to Oasis to stock up on bulk spices and numerous other items. I always end up with a bulging basket there. The spice section is mind-boggling, and the baked goods and sweets are impossible to walk past. Well worth the drive. Have a lovely week folks.
*If you need some background music while you’re mixing and measuring, you could listen to the inspiration for my blog post title, the very bad (in a good way) Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher. The drum intro is the perfect accompaniment to frenzied spice pounding. Or… for something more exotic, and because she’s named after the main spice in Za’atar, you could try the absolutely fabulous Yma Sumac (her real name is actually Amy Camus, but she niftily reversed the letters).

Jar of home-made zaatarZaatar label[Recipe 1] Za’atar (Middle Eastern spice mix)

OPTION 1: Bulk quantity (makes 16–17 cups, to fill 16–17 average-sized jars)
3 cups (150g) thyme
3 cups (150g) marjoram
3 cups (150g) oregano
1½ cups (150g) sesame seeds, toasted
5 cups (600g) fine-blend sumac
¼ cup (6 tablespoons) cinnamon
¼ cup (6 tablespoons) cumin
¼ cup (6 tablespoons) fine sea salt

OPTION 2: Small quantity (makes 2½ cups)
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
¼ cup fine-blend sumac
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Place thyme, marjoram, oregano and sesame seeds into a large bowl and mix well. Blend in batches in a food processor or with a stick blender. Don’t blend it too fine, just break it up a bit. If you’re making the smaller quantity of Za’atar, you can use a mortar and pestle.
Add sumac, cinnamon, cumin and sea salt and mix well. Divide za’atar into sterilised jars.
♦ Reserve 4 tablespoons za’atar for the Manoushe bi za’tar (Lebanese pizza with za’atar).

  • Sumac is a dark reddish purple Middle Eastern spice, made from the berries of the Sumac shrub. It has a tart, tangy flavour. It’s available in large supermarkets, specialty food stores and Middle Eastern grocers.
  • You can toast your own sesame seeds, or cheat and buy them pre-roasted from Asian and Middle Eastern food stores. 
  • Za’atar should be stored in a cool dry place, and will keep for 3–6 months.
  • Glass jars and lids can be sterilised by running them through your dishwasher on the hottest cycle, on the top shelf.

Zaatar pizza

[Recipe 2] Manoushe bi za’atar (Lebanese pizza with za’atar)

1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, or 2 store-bought pizza bases
2 tablespoons olive oil
♦ 4 tablespoons reserved za’atar
Tomato, Persian fetta and mint salad, to serve (optional)

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Place two pizza trays into the hot oven to warm up, for at least 10 minutes. This is an important step for crispy-based pizzas.
If using home-made wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, sprinkle flour on a sheet of baking paper. Roll out each dough ball into a circle, roughly the same size as your baking tray. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Brush each pizza base with olive oil.
♦ Liberally sprinkle reserved za’atar over each pizza.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–15 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Don’t overcook the pizza, or you’ll end up with a giant biscuit! Have a peep after 10 minutes, and pop it in for an extra 5 minutes only if absolutely necessary. You’ll need less time overall if using pre-cooked store-bought bases.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately with Tomato, Persian fetta and mint salad.

  • You can make smaller manoushe as hors d’oeuvres. Cut little rounds of pizza dough, about 7cm (2¾”) in diameter. A full quantity of wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough will yield about 40 mini pizzas. Bake at a lower temperature (220°C/425ºF) for 8–10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn! You can see a picture of them here – they’re included in Bento box number 5.