That’s a bold statement, I know. But seriously, my mum makes the best zaatar. She is not an accomplished cook, she has her few specialties which are totally delicious but her zaatar absolutely rocks. I’m not kidding you here.
Every time she prepares a batch, the neighbors, intoxicated by the aroma, come down to our house for a taste. I remember back in school where my friends fought for a taste of my homemade man’ousheh. At that time, I made my mum wake up earlier to prepare me extras so I can share them with my friends. That’s how popular her zaatar is.
Even my husband now would ask; “have you got the zaatar?”. I felt I were a drug-dealer hiding some stash of liquid gold. Well, it isn’t liquid and it sure isn’t gold. It’s better.
It’s my mum’s zaatar.
And up until this summer, I’ve never attempted to learn how to do it. Wonder why? Well, each time I asked her she would say: “oh it’s nothing, just add 2 parts this to two parts that, toast and smell, you’ll know it’s right when it’s right!!” Anyone who’s ever asked a Lebanese woman about her recipe, I’m hundred percent positive they’ve heard that same answer. There are rarely any recipes around here. They smell, they taste, they love, they mix, taste again and love some more. This love is the “nafas”. It is very common in Lebanon to say “nafasa tayyeb 3al akel” or she “cooks very well” and “has good appetite for taste” as Bethany Kehdy, author of The Jewelled Kitchen cookbook, puts it in her Food52 article about Baked Kebbeh.
But for me to share this recipe with you , I stood by mum while she made her zaatar, and I measured.
So with the same “nafas”, here goes my mum’s Zaatar recipe (makes 3 –3 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups sesame seeds
- 1 cup zaatar, wild thyme
- 1/2 cup sumac
- 2 tablespoons table salt
In a large non-stick pan, toast the sesame seeds on medium-low heat until they turn golden brown, around 5 minutes. You can use up to 2 cups sesame seeds which we used this time; but we do love us some sesame!
Turn off the heat.
Add 1 cup zaatar and stir. Then add the sumac, the salt and stir.
Turn the heat back on and stir the whole mixture for around 1 minute.
Turn the heat off, allow to cool and store in airtight containers. Or spoon some in a bowl, add extra-virgin olive oil, smear it on pita bread or bake a man’oushe and enjoy!
Since the holiday season is upon us, this makes a perfect thoughtful homemade gift.
Now go make this recipe, and trust me you’ll love me for it!
Come back tomorrow for the man’oushe pockets recipe that is so handy with kids and adults alike!