It’s been mild this November, and my collection of perennial herbs on the allotment is still looking fresh.
I picked a bunch of Rosemary, Sage, Winter Savoury, Oregano and Thyme.
Many herbs are very simple to grow successfully, even in pots. They are forgiving, and giving…they accept neglect and continue to provide beautiful, fragrant, interesting flavours throughout the seasons.
Pick up a healthy small plant at a garden centre, or a garden market stall, pot on into a slightly bigger pot, using compost and soil, or plant it straight in the ground, (remembering that not all herbs are hardy). If you keep herbs in a pot, water regularly, but sparingly. Some herbs are regarded as annuals but many will go on year after year. Growing herbs is an economical way of having herbs in your kitchen all year round.
Herbs have many medicinal powers as well as culinary uses.
Thyme can be infused as a tea (with a little agave) as a cough remedy.
Today I’m offering a recipe using fresh Oregano and Thyme, both herbs grow wild on the hills in Mediterranean countries. I remember driving through Greek Mountains with the heady fragrance of Thyme and Oregano coming in through the open windows with the warm breeze. Intoxicating.
Za’atar Flatbreads are an everyday bread eaten in many Middle Eastern Countries.
Here is my take on a Palestinian style flatbread…..
Za’atar flatbreads, served with hummus, vegan cheese and olives, rocket, radishes, tomatoes and spring onions, and a hot spicy lentil and tomato soup.
You can use your favourite leavened flatbread for this recipe.
I used sourdough: half of the recipe described here:
… and followed the same process until the final prove, at which point I flattened the breads out on the trays, covered with silver foil and allowed to rise in a recently warmed oven for up to an hour. (See preparation of flatbreads below).
Alternatively, here is a simple recipe for a yeasted flatbread:
- 400gms. plain flour ( wholemeal or white or a mix)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 7gms quick-action yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 300ml warm water
- Activate the yeast by mixing it with the sugar and adding 50 ml warm water.
- When it’s bubbling a little ( 1o mins) add the salt, the yeast and the rest of the water to the flour in a bowl. Mix well. Knead until it is soft and pliable. 10 mins.
- Set aside, covered in damp kitchen towel to rise.
ZA’ATAR SPICE AND HERB MIX
- 4 tsps. sesame seeds
- Large handful of oregano.
- Small handful of thyme
- 4 tsps. sumac – a lemony tangy spice made from crushed berries – (you may need to hunt to around to find this, but it is not unknown to find it in supermarkets these days…)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 tsp. ground cumin
- Finely chop 2/3 of the fresh herbs, or blitz in a blender. Reserve the rest of the herbs to scatter on the flatbreads just before baking.
- Mix chopped herbs with sesame seeds, sumac, ground cumin and salt.
HOT SPICY LENTIL AND TOMATO SOUP
- 225gms. red split lentils.
- 2tsps. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2cm finely grated ginger
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 4 tbs. tomato puree
- 2 tbs. olive oil
- 1500ml warm water
- In a large heavy pan, heat the oil, and then sauce the washed and drained lentils for 3 mins on a high heat. Stir constantly to avoid burning.
- Add garlic and ginger – fry for 2 mins.
- Lower the heat and add the spices and salt – fry gently for 2 mins.
- Add 1500ml of warm water.
- Stir in tomato puree.
- Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for an hour or so. The soup will only improve if cooked for longer. Just before serving, taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.
PREPARE THE MEZZE
- Rocket, finely chopped spring onions, washed and sliced radishes, tomatoes, humus, olives and cubed vegan cheese and salad dressing. You can add or change aspects of the mezze according to choice.
- For example, grated cucumber in non-dairy yogurt, grated carrot salad, ribbons of cos lettuce, sun-dried tomatoes.
When the soup is nearly ready, prepare the flatbreads for the oven
- Risen dough
- Za’atar mix
- Remaining fresh herbs
- Several tbs. of extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil.
Cooking for peace is my passion, and the other day I splashed out on a special bottle of Palestinian Olive Oil from Oxfam Fair-trade, because it means that in some small way I can support Palestinian farmers.
- Heat the oven to its highest heat gas mk.9/ 240C
- Take two baking trays, round or rectangular ( I used 2 trays approx 30cm x 20 cm)
- Grease the trays liberally with olive oil.
- Cut the risen dough in half and spread on the trays. Use your fingers, the little indentations will catch the oil and Za’atar.
- Drizzle the surface with olive oil.
- Sprinkle Za’atar over the surface of the flatbread.
- Scatter fresh Thyme and fresh Oregano leaves across the flatbreads.
- Drizzle a little more olive oil over the breads.
- Pop both trays in the hot oven for 10 – 15 mins. until the breads are golden round the edges.
- Remove from oven, slice and serve with accompaniments.