Zaa’tar and Akkawi Cheese Mana’eesh (Flatbreads)
Mana’eesh are an iconic part of Levantine cuisine. They are popular across the Middle East, also known in other regions as fatayer, and are great for breakfast or lunch. Mana’eesh remind me of weekends spent at my grandparents’ house, with mana’eesh served up to a large, loud gathering of aunts, uncles and cousins. Mana’eesh for lunch is always a crowd-pleaser.
You can think of mana’eesh as Arabic pizza. It starts with a leavened pizza base that is then brushed with olive oil and topped with either zaa’tar (a tangy herb and spice mixture), or Akkawi cheese.
This September, we’re excited to be sharing our Akkawi with members of The Cheese Wheel, and this recipe has been specially curated for their 130g Akkawi packs. This recipe will make six medium mana’eesh, four of Akkawi cheese and two zaa’tar.
– 200g all-purpose flour
– 120g warm water (about 30 deg. C), divided
– 1tsp sugar
– 5g salt (1 tsp)
– 1 rounded teaspoon instant yeast
– 15g (about 1 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil.
– 2T Zaa’tar spice blend*
– Extra virgin olive oil
– 130g Akkawi cheese
– Dried mint, to sprinkle, (optional)
– Few slices of black olives (optional)
Mana’eesh pizza base
Note: You can substitute this recipe with any pizza base recipe of your liking.
– In a small cup, combine the instant yeast and sugar. Then add about 40g of the warm water. Stir to combine and leave for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate until you see a foam bubbling at the surface.
– Meanwhile in a medium bowl, add the all-purpose flour and salt. Mix well with a whisk.
– Once the yeast mixture is ready, add to the flour. Add the rest of the warm water. Beginning with a spoon, mix the dry and wet ingredients to combine. Then using your hands, combine just enough to form a ball of dough. Do not knead at this stage. Allow the dough to autolyse (rest) for 10 minutes.
– Once the dough has autolysed, pour the olive oil on top, and knead it into the dough. Continue kneading the dough until it is soft and elastic, about 10 minutes.
– Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or cling film and allow to proof for 30 minutes to one hour in a warm place. You may wish to warm the oven to 30 degrees and place the bowl in the oven for proofing.
– The dough should have doubled in size. Test the dough by poking it with your finger. If the dough bounces back half way, it is ready to be used.
– Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and cover with a cloth. On a floured surface, roll out each ‘pizza’ until it is about half a cm thick. Cover with a towel for ten minutes to rest.
Zaa’tar is a popular Middle Eastern spice blend, most well-known for mana’eesh and when combined with olive oil as a dip.
– For this recipe, combine two tablespoons of zaa’tar with just enough olive oil to form a thick paste
As Akkawi is a brined cheese, it is traditionally soaked in cold water before use to remove some of the salt. However, you don’t want to lose all the salt as the saltiness of the cheese gives it much better flavour.
– Grate the cheese (not too fine). Soak in cold water for 5-10 minutes. The longer you soak the cheese, the more of the salt will be removed.
– Drain well.
– Preheat the oven to 220 deg. C, fan-forced.
– Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Zaa’tar mana’eesh (x2)
– With a pastry brush, brush the dough with a thin coating of olive oil. Then, leaving about a cm from the edge of the dough, spread about 2tsps of the zaa’tar paste to form an even layer of zaa’tar (similar to spreading the tomato base on a pizza).
Akkawi mana’eesh (x4)
– For each pizza, brush with a thin layer of olive oil
– Leaving a cm from the edge, top with the grated Akkawi cheese, dividing the cheese evenly between the four.
– Suggested toppings:
– One plain Akkawi
– For one of them, sprinkle dried mint over the Akkawi.
– For another, add a few slices of sliced black olives
– For the last, add dried mint and black olives.
Bake the mana’eesh in the preheated oven until the cheese has melted and the mana’eesh are golden brown.
*Zaa’tar can be purchased from specialty stores that import Middle Eastern ingredients. With a quick search online I found some stores also have made it available online in New Zealand. Watch this space for our own recipe for Zaa’tar.