Za’atar is the Arabic name for a blend of herbs that is used widely in Israeli cooking.
Za’atar, is a perennial herb also known as wild thyme, bible hyssop or Lebanese oregano. It has long green leaves and a thyme-like flavour and grows wild along the slopes of the Syrian-Lebanese mountains, although due to its ever increasing demand, Za’atar is now cultivated. The za'atar plant is a protected species in Israel as it is feared that it will become extinct.
Za’atar the spice blend, is made up of a mixture of dried herbs, sesame seeds, sumac and salt and dates back to the 13th century. Despite substantial regional variations, the blend itself varies enormously from culture to culture and family to family, and often a closely guarded secret.
Za’aatar’s culinary uses are so diverse; it can be made into a rub for meat, chicken or vegetables or made into a marinade for roasted vegetables. It is often sprinkled on top of dough to make pitas or pizza and for a dip, mix in a processor with labne, crushed garlic, olive oil and feta cheese.
4 tsp sesame seeds
4 tbsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
4 tsp dried marjoram
4 tsp sumac
4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
In a dry pan, toast the sesame seeds on a high heat for one to two minutes. Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until finely mixed.
Store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week.
recipe for za’atar roasted butternut squash with spiced yoghurt
adapted from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour
1 large butternut squash
3 tbsp za’atar
3 tbsp olive oil
for the spiced yoghurt sauce
200g Greek yoghurt
1 bunch mint, leaves picked & finely chopped
2 tsp sumac
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp olive oil
grated rind & juice of 1 lemon
ground black pepper
fresh coriander leaves & slices of red chilli to serve
peel and deseed the butternut squash and cut into big chunks, mix the za'atar into a paste with the oil and rub all over the butternut squash, place in a roasting dish, season with salt and leave for 1-2 hours
place in oven at 200C for 45 minutes or until cooked through and slightly charred at edges