There is one thing I never want to miss during my visit to the family in Lebanon: Manakish!
Just the thought of the delicious flat bread with e.g. Za’atar topping makes my mouth water. For breakfast I can hardly imagine anything better.
When I’m in Lebanon, my aunt stirs the Za’atar mixture, fills it into a Tupperware tin and sends me to the bakery with it.
The baker’s credo could be “You bring the topping, I have the dough and the stone oven.” So then I walk through Aley with the little Tupperware box in my hand – and growling stomach.
Aley: The city of clouds
The small town in the mountains is about 16Km east of Beirut – directly on the way to Damascus. Tourism plays a very important role in Aley. In summer the sheikhs of the Arabian Peninsula like to spend their holidays in the “City of Fog”. Due to its location in the mountains, it actually often happens that the whole place disappears in the clouds.
Compared to Beirut, the climate is less hot and humid, but still wonderfully summery. That is why Aley is often called “Ahruß il Saif” – the bride of the summer. And so the air of summer evenings is filled with music and the smell of food and perfume is everywhere.
Arrived at the baker’s, I get in line. Most of the time there are already some neighbours waiting with their tupperware tins, while the baker rolls out the fresh yeast dough, presses small hollows into it with his finger tips and spreads it with the toppings you brought along.
It all happens so fast! As soon as I have handed over the Za’atar mixture, it’s already on the dough and then it’s in the oven. The smell is enchanting! By the way, there are several variations of Manakish (or Manakeesh), which I would like to introduce to you very soon. But the variant with Za’atar is the classic.
The sound of the oven slider as it slides along the bottom of the stone oven and pulls the delicious dough pancakes out of the fire makes my stomach growl. The baker quickly and skilfully wraps the Manakish in bread paper and presses the warm and fragrant package into my hand. On the way back to my aunt always a Mankushi (singular to Manakish) gets lost 😉
Recipe for Manakish
- 3 Tbsp Za'atar
- 1 Onion chopped
- 14 Tbsp Olive oil
- Prepare the dough according to the recipe and let it rise covered for 60 – 90 minutes. (but do not bake yet, just prepare the dough!)
- Mix the Za'atar with the olive oil and the chopped onion to a liquid dip.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, pluck it into a number of equal-sized pieces and form them into small balls. Then let it rest under a damp kitchen towel for another 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 250 °C / 482 °F top and bottom heat. (If you have a pizza stone, preheat it on the bottom shelf)
- Line baking trays with baking paper. Or use a pizza stone.
- Roll out the dough balls with a rolling pin and carefully press several small hollows into the dough with your fingertips.
- Spread the dough thinly with the Zatar oil mixture.
- Bake the Manakish for about 4 – 5 minutes in the lower part of the oven.