Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mankousheh or Oregano Bread

The Humble Mankousheh
Out of the Oven

Ready for the Oven

Ash Wednesday, in the Western Christian Calendar, is the first day of Lent and occurs forty-six days (forty days not counting Sundays) before Easter.

For the first day of Lent I want to offer a simple recipe from the Lebanese Kitchen which is easy to prepare , tasty, full of nutritious ingredients, an energy booster. It's a breakfast staple, great for lunch , wonderful as a snack, and amazing any time of the day... This is my weakness.. The Humble Mankousheh.... which is bread dough stuffed either with Zaatar Mix and then it's called Mankousheh Zaatar (Oregano Bread) or stuffed with Cheese and its Mankousheh Jibneh or stuffed with meat and its called Lahem BiAjeen or Sfeeha.

In every corner of every neighbourhood in Beirut, you will find a Manakish Bakery; they open with the first light of the day, to prepare their dough, to be ready with the first customer entering their doors. During breakfast rush hour, all the bakeries are busy. On the weekend you have to have a ticket specially if some ladies, bring their own Zaatar mix to make their own Manakish at the bakery; you will ask for some dough and they give it to you rolled on a wooden board, one beside the other, as much as you want, when you finish stuffing your bread, they will bake it for you . Some ladies even bring Zaatar and cheese mix or meat mix for Lahem Bi Ajeen or Sfeeha. This is how much we love our Manakish burning hot out of the oven, served with fresh mint leaves, some black olives and slices of tomatoes.

You will have a nice treat , If you get to taste Mankousheh done on the Saj, which is a metal disk burns either on wood or Propane Gas. My mom has a Gas Saj she bought it to make our daily lavash bread during the war . Our treat at the end of a bread day; baking some nice hot Mankousheh on the Saj. On some weekends we used to invite our neighbors in the building for Manakish breakfast with Zaatar and Cheese accompanied with a cup of warm tea.
Because my mom is a farmer's daughter, she is used to prepare all the food specially the Mouneh from scratch (Mouneh is the larder that comprises foodstuff preserved in the ancient tradition for th winter season, and I am her daughter) which includes making the Zaatar Mix... which till now I find it the best mix I have ever tasted...her secret is adding some toasted nuts to the wild thyme/oregano , sumac , toasted unshelled sesame seeds, she also adds toasted chickpeas, and sometimes toasted pistachios or peanuts....and she ground them all in a big stone mortar and pestle...

I do get my share from her amazing Zaatar mix. She became friends with a spice mill place in our area, she takes some Zaatar to Sami the owner to package the Zaatar in a sealed bag from his Mill... this way if she is travelling or sending it with someone... she will not have any problem at the customs... Smart!

To prepare the best Mankousheh, you must have a good quality of Zaatar mix, good quality of Olive Oil, I like the Greek Olive Oil, because its very close to our oil, most of all a good dough, because if you don't have a good dough, all the above will not matter.

when making my dough I use Sourdough Starter:
1 cup starter, with 2 cups of warm liquid (combination of water and 1/2 cup olive oil)
4 cups of unbleached flour, one teaspoon of dry yeast one tsp salt and tbsp of sugar....
the dough needs to rest and take its time to double... be patient and don't ever rush your dough
a cup or so of a sponge dough. Sometimes you need to add some more flour or more liquid , it all depends on the climate , the flour brand and your sponge.

When the dough rise and double, I take around a big ball and put in a freezer bag, to use it the next time I make another bread dough.
Zaatar Mix: Can be purchase from any Middle Eastern/Lebanese Store and you mix it with olive you to a spreadable Constancy to cover your dough... If the mix is too thick the Mankousheh will be dry and if the mix is too runny from the olive oil it will run out of the dough and burns before the bread is baked.

My weakness

A Treat from mom

Greek Olive Oil or Italian

Mom Zaatar Packaged in Sami Bittar's Spice Bags

Good in children lunch boxes

This is how I introduced the Manakish @ the Farmer's Market the first year..Now they all want the real Mankousheh.

Note: Mankousheh is a single Oregano Bread
Manakish is the plural of Mankousheh


tasteofbeirut said...

I like how you called it "your weakness". It is mine too! I could live on it!
I love how you made such an amazing dough for it! I am so glad you are introducing Canadians to the manooshe bel zaatar. Bravo.

Mamatkamal said...

You're right when you said " patient and don't ever rush your dough...". I believe that making bread is not only difficult, but it also requires a lot of patience and you're so talented my friend to be able to make such a lovely bread!.
Chapeau bas!

Julia @Mélanger said...

I am always so impressed by your breads. This one looks amazing. I've never heard of it, but the combination of flavours intrigue me!

Arlette said...

You can find the Zaatar at any Middle Eastern Store and if you cannot I will send you some from here

Deeba PAB said...

My weakness too ... wonder where I can find some sour dough starter from. I would love to make this bread! Looks so GOOD Arlette!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That looks really delicious! :D And thanks for giving us the tip on the toasted nuts too!

://: Heni ://: said...

I think it is my weakness too!When i lived in detroit, I stopped off at the neghbourhood lebanese bakery just for one but always ended up with least 6 of these!enchallah i will try your recipe our arlette!what can i say i love all syrian and lebanese cooking!