Diala Shaheen of The Hummus Theory shares through her blog her love of Middle Eastern food and the importance of preserving these recipes, especially those of her Palestinian background. We appreciate how she prepares healthier alternatives to traditional dishes we love and her modern take on dishes we are accustomed to!
“We will stay here as long as there are thyme and olives”.
Wild thyme form the basis for the famous Palestinian spice za’atar, which is basically dried thyme grinded with sesame seeds and the tangy spice sumaq. Za’atar is a magical spice we eat with everything; chicken, salads, cheese, labneh (pressed yogurt), or even on its own with some olive oil.
And what’s better than adding it to dough and making delicious wild thyme bread?
Za’atar bread is not just another baked deliciousness for me; za’atar bread brings childhood memories that I remember every time I smell its aroma and savour its flavour. Memories of my settu (grandmother) kneading and making her special shape while I’m sitting next to her waiting for the first batch to snatch one or two flaming breads.
These days my mother and aunties carried the legacy while they compete to make the za’atar bread closest to settu’s. One of the secrets of making the best za’atar bread is getting the best za’atar; wild, fresh, and aromatic. What’s special about this bread’s dough is the use of olive oil. Add the fresh za’atar leaves after picking them from the roots.
What I love about this bread is its simplicity: there’s only two variations- plain circle-shaped bread and white nabulsi cheese stuffed. Another secret for delicious za’atar bread is making settu’s traditional shape: a hole in the middle and indentations all around. Here’s a tutorial video featuring my awesome mom.
For the cheese stuffed ones, shapes vary: the balls, the boats, or the classic triangles. BAKE! And enjoy the aromas.
This bread can’t be enjoyed without a cup of mint tea, some cucumbers and tomatoes, and labneh (pressed yogurt dip).