Michele B from USA writes:

“My son is traveling through Northern Lebanon, and has been writing to me about all the different foods he has been trying. He’s especially smitten with his breakfast, which consists of Za’atar along with some kind of Lebanese cheese – he’s not sure of the name of the cheese, but says it has caraway seeds in it. The Za’atar is served on freshly grilled flatbread that has been spread with some olive oil. Are you familiar with Za’atar and if so, do you have a good recipe for it?”

Kurma replies:

Za’atar can refer to both a combination of herbs and a herb, Thymbra spicata, which has a slight minty flavour, in the marjoram/oregano family. What is sold commercially is often blended with sumac and lightly toasted sesame seeds, but the base of the za’atar blend is za’atar herbs.

The Marjoram used for Za’atar is a mild variety. In the Lebanon, thyme is called “Za’atar romi” (Roman Za’atar), and oregano is “Za’atar ach’dar” (green Za’atar). Za’atar can also be the name of hyssop or a varied mixture of herbs.

I have two recipes in my files, though I haven’t tried either of them.”

Here’s one:

3 parts toasted sesame seeds
2 parts very finely ground dried thyme
1 part very finely ground dried marjoram
1/2 – 1 part powdered sumac
salt, optional


Here’s another:

2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons basil
2 tablespoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon whole thyme
2 teaspoons savory
2 teaspoons ground marjoram
1/2 teaspoons whole dry marjoram
1-2 tablespoons sumac berries, crushed
1/4-1/2 cup unhulled, toasted sesame seeds, ground coarsely
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
zest of two lemons, very finely minced

First grind the sesame seeds and crush the sumac separately. Then crush everything together with a pestle or the back of a spoon, or put it into a zipper plastic baggie, press out the air, seal, and roll over it with a rolling pin until the desired mix and texture is achieved.

In a nutshell, Za’atar always contains thyme, sumac and sesame, and the rest is up to you.

bread, labneh and za'atar:

Serving suggestion:

*For a spreadable mix, stir through some really good olive oil.
*Spread on pita or flatbread, and bake or put under the griller until hot through.
*Work some into the top of fresh bread dough before baking.
*Strew over salads.
*Sprinkled over roast or steamed vegetables.
*Cover bread dipped in very good virgin olive oil.
*Dredge oil-coated chunks of feta in it.
*Add a little to a vinaigrette – 3 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, crushed chopped parsley, salt and pepper and za’atar.
*Add to yoghurt-based mayonnaise for delicious vegetable dips.
*Sprinkle on hummus.
Posted by Kurma on 13/10/08; 6:42:27 AM

Life and Travel

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