The Middle East from North Africa and Moorish Spain, through Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, to Iran and the Arabian Peninsula has a long and vibrant tradition of home-style vegetarian cuisine. From abundant fresh salads, dips and breads, to a diverse collection of delicious and hearty main meals, there is a profusion of delicious flavour combinations. Based on the freshest ingredients and cooked from the heart, Greg and Lucy Malouf’s recipes in The New Feast are designed for sharing and enjoying with others. Their approach to vegetarian food comes from their love of traditional Middle Eastern flavours and the importance of colour and texture in this cuisine. The recipes are new interpretations of Middle Eastern food, inspired by the spirit of generosity and sharing, which characterises the region?s approach to cooking.
Maneesh is a middle eastern flatbread that makes the perfect edible spoon for baba ganoush, hummus, tabbouleh or Labneh, as well as a delightful sponge to wipe up leftover sauce or meat juices. It’s a really easy bread to make and its fragrant za’atar crust makes it tasty enough to eat alone. You can take it from me that after a boozy dinner party, any leftovers make for an extremely satisfying breakfast. It has a slightly sweet flavour and the texture of the sesame seeds make a lovely contrast to the soft, sponginess of the bread.
Shop-bought flatbread just can’t compete, so why bother opening your wallet for pale and dusty supermarket pitta, when you can knock up Maneesh in no time. Granted, there is proving time (not true of all flatbreads) but all that really means is that you have an hour off to get on with other things, like putting your feet up.
- 350g of strong white bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp of caster sugar
- 7g of fast-action dried yeast
- 1 tbsp of olive oil, (not extra virgin, plus extra for oiling the table)
- 250ml of water, lukewarm
- For the za’atar topping
- 3 tbsp of sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp of dried thyme
- 1 tbsp of dried oregano
- 1 tbsp of dried majoram
- 1 tsp sumac
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp of olive oil, at least
- Sift the flour into a large bowl and place the salt on one side and the yeast and sugar on the other. Make a well in the middle and add the oil and two-thirds of the water. Mix together thoroughly, adding the remaining water a little at a time until you have a smooth dough
- Oil your worktop and knead your dough on it for about 10 minutes or until the dough is elastic. You can do this in a freestanding mixer with a dough hook if you prefer. Form a ball, and place it in a large oiled bowl and cover the top with cling film. Pop it somewhere warm (I stick it in the airing cupboard) for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size
- Knock back the dough by giving it a good punch and tip it out onto the worktop and knead again for a couple of minutes. Divide the dough into two and shape each piece into a ball. Roll each ball of dough into a large round about a centimetre thick and place each on a lightly floured baking tray
- To make the za’atar topping, simply mix up all the ingredients into a paste and spread half of the mixture onto each flatbread
- Leave to rest for 15–30 minutes while you preheat your oven as hot as it will go (230°C/gas mark 8 in my case)
- Bake the Maneesh for 15–20 minutes, or until golden and transfer to a wire rack to cool before