We tasted a huge number of za’atars before settling on this blend. There’s enormous variety in the market – and while a bad blend is a real disappointment, we were overjoyed to finally track down this dark green, fresh and flavourful za’atar.
The Middle Eastern spice blend has a base of green thyme. It usually has a sumac added to it, as well as sesame seeds – toasted or untoasted. It’s an ingredient which has benefitted from ‘The Ottolenghi Effect’, and though still new to British kitchens, it features in ever-more recipes, by cooks like Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater.
Za’atar is most often used as a finishing flavour – sprinkled over halloumi or tossed through a roast chickpea salad. That's not to say that it can't be cooked. Za'atar is often added to meat rubs and marinades, as with m’sakhan. It is also mixed with oil and then brushed over flatbreads before they are cooked, to make a popular side called manakish za'atar.
There’s no need to stick to the rules though – we love to top baked sweet potato with sour cream and a hefty dash of za'atar. It's even crept into chicken and mayonnaise sandwiches, and we've sprinkled it over fried eggs, to introduce a vivid green herbaceous vibe to breakfast.
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend, which varies dependent on region – there are Jordanian, Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli blends. Within these regions there’s still huge variation, with mountain blends typically being drier, lighter green with untoasted sesame seeds. Ours is a Lebanese blend with big flavours from fluffy, fresh thyme and toasted sesame.
Za’atar should be stored in a dark, airtight container, to prevent it from drying out, and to keep it as flavourful as possible.
INGREDIENTS: Thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, salt, wheat, sunflower oil
ALSO KNOWN AS: Zatar, Green Thyme
COOK THIS SPICE
Monkfish with caramelised red onion and pine nuts
Allspice roast chicken with slow-roasted garlic and za'atar yoghurt
Cheat's Za'atar Manoush (Lebanese Pizza)
Cheat's Imam Bayildi