In my defence I had been awake for 37 hours when I made this purchase. And in the three days prior to that point I had only had about 14 hours sleep. So when I saw the silver bag in the foodie shop at Duty Free in Amman airport I could be forgiven for thinking it was coffee, right? It even had a lady on the front of the packet who looked like she was picking coffee. Maybe
The label said “zaatar” and I just assumed that was the Arabic for coffee. It certainly felt like coffee through the packaging. It certainly looked like coffee in a 1kg bag. I grabbed it, along with various chocolate and sweetie treats and congratulated myself on my fine skills as a wife remembering to get presents for Mr (and the teens).
Fast forward a month after it has sat beside the coffee machine, too big to go in the designated coffee cupboard, and Mr B has taken it to work. Only to then have to email me two hours later to say “Zaatar is not coffee. It’s a herbal stimulant and there is a kilo of it in my desk”.
So what is it? Well according to Wikipedia:
Za’atar as a prepared condiment is generally made with ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt
Popular in the middle east every region seems to come up with their own combination of the flavours. In the Levant region children are given a zaatar sandwich for breakfast as it is believed to wake them up in the morning.
Bit like coffee then.
Another way of using it is to mix it with olive oil and dip pitta bread in to it. Or indeed sprinkle it on flattened bread and then cook it, known as maneesh, which is what I did a couple of weeks ago.
- 500g of strong white bread flour
- 1tsp of salt
- 2 tsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of fast acting yeast
- 2 tbs of olive oil
- 350ml of warm water
- 6 tbs of zaatar (3 tbs of sesame seeds, 2tbs dried thyme, 1 tbs dried marjoram)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- Put water and olive oil into your bread maker
- cover with the flour
- In two opposite corners add the salt and the sugar
- In the middle create a well and put in the yeast
- Put on the dough setting and once done remove, put in an oiled bowl to prove
- Once doubled in size "knock back" all the air from it by stretching and folding it in half
- Divide into three equal balls
- Roll each one out into a large circle
- Mix zaatar herbs and olive oil to a paste and spoon over breads
- Leave to rest for 20 mins
- Then cook at 230 degrees for 15 minutes
Seems we could be enjoying this souvenir for quite some time!