An introduction to the varied ingredients of Lebanese food, starting with the letter A, as taken from our second cookbook.
Za’atar can cause a little confusion. It’s the term for the Middle Eastern spice mix made from a heady combination of herbs, spices and seeds; however, it’s also the name of a herb itself. As with so much of Middle Eastern cooking, there are many regional variations. Its uses are limitless: it can be sprinkled over food on its own, stirred into dips or through rice, or massaged over chicken or meat as a dry rub. In Lebanon it’s strongly associated with the breakfast table, where it’s used in both a sweet and a savoury context. Although there are some good ready-prepared versions available, nothing really compares to making your own — it’s so easy to do and you can adjust the levels of each flavour according to your own preferences. Our version at Comptoir is made by toasting 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until just golden. Tip into a mortar and add 1/2 teaspoon of sumac and 1 teaspoon each of dried thyme, marjoram and oregano with a good pinch of sea salt. Pound with the pestle until everything is well ground. Store in an airtight container and use within a month.