For International Zaatar Day on 23rd September I am sharing with you the story of a dear person to me, and his recipe of Man’oushe. Both story and recipe are from my Cookbook “The Taste of Marjeyoun” . Book is currently out of print. Working on a new edition.
Man’oushe is to the Lebanese what Brezel to the Germans or Pizza to the Italians is. This special Lebanese pizza topped with a sour and nutty flavoured zaatar (thyme) and olive oil mixture should be on your culinary tour list whenever on a visit to Lebanon. It is the go to food when hunger strikes, morning, noon or night; just head to the nearest bakery to order a traditional zaatar man’oushe or one of the other equally delicious variations.
Man’oushet Abou Kamel, meaning Abou Kamel’s Man’oushe, was prepared by Abou Kamel, our long time concierge in Beirut. He was an old and friendly man who came to Lebanon as a Palestinian refugee in 1948. Eventually he landed the job as the caretaker of one of the newest high-rise buildings in Beirut. For almost 50 years he lived on and took care of the grounds and the tenants as if it all belonged to him. After his retirement in 2007, at about 75-80 years of age, Abou Kamel went back to a refugee camp in Sidon.
What remain of Abou Kamel are his unforgettable toothless smile and his succulent Manou’she. His mixture of zaatar, olive oil, onions, tomatoes, pomegranate syrup and chilli pepper made our Sundays very special. I don’t remember when he started to spoil us, but that became a ritual that lasted for many years up to the summers I came to Lebanon with my family. He insisted on taking care of our Sunday breakfasts and introduced my children to the tastiest and juiciest Manou’she ever!
Man'oushet Abou Kamel - Thyme Pizza
- For the dough
- 450 g flour
- 2 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 50 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 250 ml lukewarm water
- For the topping
- 45 g zaatar
- 150 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion 125 g, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes 200 g, rinsed and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
- 5-10 drops of Tabasco
- For the dough: Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the oil and water and mix well until the dough gathers into a ball, adding a little extra flour if it is sticky or a drizzle of water if dry. Knead for about 5 minutes until it becomes smooth and pliable. Lightly oil the bowl and turn the round dough over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
- For the topping: Just before starting working with the risen dough combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Tomatoes tend to lose juice quickly.
- To make man’ousha: Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to 2 mm thickness. Cut out the dough into rounds using a 10-cm round-shaped pastry cutter. Place circles on the sheet; press your fingers lightly onto the dough and spread with ½ tablespoon of the topping. Repeat procedure.
- Preheat oven (220°C, 425°F). Bake on middle rack for about 12 minutes. Serve warm or cold.