Thursday, October 22, 2009

Manakeesh

Having just come back from the most amazing weekend in Beirut, I can now safely say that a properly made manakeesh for breakfast is one of the true culinary finds I've made this year. If you don’t have time to make your own bread, I guess you can use a pita instead, but trust me on this one, if close to perfection is sought, you might as well gloss over this recipe and plan your next holiday in Lebanon, the only way to do this kind of food justice is to go to the source.

250g all purpose flour
20g fresh yeast or 2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
about 125ml warm water
2 tblsp olive oil

In a large non-metal bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Form the mixture into a mound and create a well in the centre. Pour the warm water and sugar into a bowl and when the sugar has dissolved, crumble in the yeast.

When the yeast is frothy, pour it into the well in the flour. Mix it together with your hands or a wooden spoon. You’ll end up with a dry, crumbling mixture that isn’t much like dough. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes.

Now add 2 tblsp olive oil and knead it into the dough. Add a little more warm water and knead it in to create a more dough like consistency. You’re done when the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.

Form the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and turn it over again to make sure the top is greased. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

When the dough has risen, turn in out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until the dough becomes firm again. Now you’ll need to decide whether you want one big manakeesh or several small ones. Take the amount of dough you want (a small section or the whole thing), and roll it out with a rolling pin until it’s a little less than half an inch (about half a centimeter) thick. Move the dough rounds to a lightly greased baking sheet and pinch all the way around the edges to form a raised edge.

Now add your toppings, place in an oven pre-heated to 200c and bake for barely a few minutes.

Manakeesh toppings should be applied fairly thinly, for an authentic taste, don’t pile them on thick.

Olive oil and za’atar. Spread a thin coating of olive oil over the top of the bread and then spread on a layer of za’atar.

Cheese - jibne and akkawi or ricotta will work fine. Avoid Greek feta, though, as it tends to be too salty. Another option is to spread on some labneh after baking, while the bread is still warm.

Vegetables - a mixture of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and olives.

Minced lamb - sauté the lamb in vegetable oil until lightly browned, then add finely chopped tomato, along with pepper and parsley if you like, spread it on the bread, and pop it in the oven.