Imagine a piece of bread dipped in lovely golden olive oil. Then, dripping still, is dipped in a bowl of ground nuts, spices, lentils and seeds. The wonderful aromas. The extraordinary flavours. Popped right into your mouth. Over a cup of coffee. For breakfast.
This mix is Middle Eastern in origin, but it has been around forever in Australia, and perhaps is even a little passé in the trendy set. Served with drinks before a meal.
But I love it at any time. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. As a salad topping. Sprinkled over roast or steamed vegetables. Covering bread dipped in olive oil.
For vegetarians it adds a little protein through the sesame seeds and chick peas.
In the Middle East and Egypt it really is served at breakfast time with bread. One takes a piece of bread, dips it first into a bowl of very good olive oil and then into the mix and then eaten.
Store this in the fridge – as you do all crushed nuts or nut meal – and it will keep for ages – several months. So make a large batch. The recipe is fluid – add and subtract ingredients as you will.
Zahtar is also spelled zatar and za’atar.
Ideally, this is a little coarse. If you prefer a more finely crushed mix, don’t crush to a state where the oils form the nuts and seeds are released and the mixture starts to form a paste. It should be a dry mixture of ingredients.
Use a mortar and pestle if you have one. Blenders and grinders can also be used, but pulse to ensure that the correct coarseness is achieved.
I really like the mix in the recipe, but you can also add:
You can omit the chickpeas for an authentic zahtar.
Leave them in, or replace them with hummus for a Dukkah.
Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice – quite tart and quite yummy. It is black in colour. Fresh and tangy, it comes from the berries of a wild bush that grows wild in all Mediterranean areas, especially in Sicily and southern Italy, and parts of the Middle East, especially Iran. It is an essential ingredient in Arabic cooking, being preferred to lemon for sourness and astringency.
You only need a little and it is fabulous with tomatoes and avocados. It can also be mixed with yoghurt and fresh herbs and served as a dipping sauce or side dish. It is good dusted over feta cheese or added to a salad. Stir it through olive oil and serve with crusty bread.
Here it is mixed in a delicious herb and spice mix to give it that Middle Eastern zing.
You can read more about sumac here.
You can obtain these from Indian or Middle Eastern grocery shops.
- Eat for breakfast, dinner, lunch and tea. If you need a spreadable mix, stir through some really good olive oil.
- Spread on pita or flatbread, and bake or put under the griller until hot through.
- Work some into the top of fresh bread dough before baking.
- Strew over salads.
- Sprinkled over roast or steamed vegetables.
- Cover bread dipped in very very good virgin cold pressed olive oil. The quality of the olive oil is the key to the success here.
- Dredge oil-coated chunks of feta in it.
- Add a little to a vinaigrette – 3 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, crushed garlic, chopped parsley, salt and pepper and zahtar.
- Excellent on crostini.
- Substitute zahtar for garlic in garlic bread.
- Add to yoghurt-based mayonnaise for delicious vegetable dips.
- Sprinkle on to hummus.
- Blend with a little natural yoghurt, sea salt and pepper and used with pan fried tofu or as an accompaniment to a hot curry.
- Rattling the Kettle in a comment suggests using it on labneh (thick Lebanese yogurt), with a little bit of potent olive oil.
Source : from my old Food Matters site
Cuisine: Lebanese and other Middle Eastern countries
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 5mins
Serves: a lot!
100 g sesame seeds
50g roasted chick peas
100g coriander seeds
1 Tblspn ground cinnamon or 2 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
large pinch black or white pepper
1.5 Tblspn cumin seeds
1 Tblspn dried marjoram
1 Tblspn sumac
50 g sunflower seeds
Separately dry roast in a hot frying pan the sesame seeds, chick peas, coriander seeds, hazelnuts and walnuts.
Likewise roast the cumin seeds.
Grind the coriander seeds first, as they are the hardest ingredient.
Then add the remaining dry roasted ingredients and the sunflower seeds and grind – pounding together if doing it by hand until coarsely crushed. If you prefer a finely crushed mix, don’t crush to a state where the oils form the nuts and seeds are released and the mixture starts to form a paste. It should be a dry mixture of ingredients.
Mix the herbs and ground spices. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. It is yummy with a peppery bite, and a slightly salty taste.
This post was updated on 30th December, 2013.
More from the Sesame Seeds Series
- Cucumber Salad with Sesame
- Chickpea, Almond and Sesame Spread
- Eggplant with Sesame, Mirin and Miso Paste
- Sesame-Ginger Dipping Sauce for Noodles
- Sesame-Lemon Bread from Moosewood
- Thai Lettuce Wraps
- Tofu and Spinach Napoleons with Sesame and Miso
- Tofu, Black Cloud Ear Fungus, Asian Herb and Sesame Salad
- Zahtar and Dukkah