As I touched on earlier, I have fallen head over heels in love with Middle Eastern food, and in particular Lebanese food, which dominates this region. Now alongside Meze and grilled meats, and the home cooked food I have sampled in large quantities, it is the Lebanese snack called Ma’ousheh (or Manakish/Manakeesh if plural) that I have gained a real taste for.
I have never come across these back in the UK, and is something I definitely want to try and bring home with me. In its simplest terms it is a round piece of Lebanese flat bread (similar in consistency to a thin pizza). This is then topped with a number of different delicious options and cooked in the oven. The ones I have had are then folded flat like a letter, with the dough still slightly soft and chewy and some great filings all melted in the middle. But you can serve them flat just like a pizza.
Now it’s really the filling that takes it up a notch, and makes this more than a Lebanese pizza. There are a range of different options. Personally, so far I have tried 3 different fillings, there are still lots to try:
Topped with a generous helping of cheese, its not a strong cheese they use, more like a mozzarella in consistency but with a little more flavor.
Now this is something new to me, but apparently is very common in the Middle East. Zataar is a mixture of dried herbs, usually thyme, oregano and marjoram, mixed with toasted sesame seeds (crushed) and salt. It has strange texture, a colleague said it was like Lebanese dust, which is pretty on the money – but it tastes so great, the thyme is the prevalent flavor with some other subtle flavours behind it. Very tasty indeed.
Cheese and Zataar
My personal favorite combining both of the above
Labneh & Zataar
This is something I only tried this morning. So Labneh is basically yogurt which has been strained to remove its whey, resulting in a relatively thick consistency, while preserving yogurt’s distinctive, sour taste. Basically like a thick sour cream (nicer than it sounds). Again, it is a bit unusual tasting and I don’t imagine it would be particularly pleasant on its own, but this is then mixed with Zataar and then topped with olives, cucumber and tomatos. Once all that came together, with the Sour, tangy, lemony taste from the Labneh mixed with the lovely punchy herbs, and the refreshing cucumber – it tasted great – and filled me up for the day – not bad for the equivalent of about £3
Manakish are eaten as either Breakfast or as a snack and we tend to order them at about 11 o’clock in the morning. I have to say they go down very well with a nice cup of Earl Grey (you can take the Englishman out of England …)!
Recipe here if you fancy trying your own, I know I will be when I get back, and could be a nice unusual addition to the coffee shop food menu alongside your usual croissants and pain au chocolat!