Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mankousheh or Oregano Bread

The Humble Mankousheh
Out of the Oven

Ready for the Oven

Ash Wednesday, in the Western Christian Calendar, is the first day of Lent and occurs forty-six days (forty days not counting Sundays) before Easter.

For the first day of Lent I want to offer a simple recipe from the Lebanese Kitchen which is easy to prepare , tasty, full of nutritious ingredients, an energy booster. It's a breakfast staple, great for lunch , wonderful as a snack, and amazing any time of the day... This is my weakness.. The Humble Mankousheh.... which is bread dough stuffed either with Zaatar Mix and then it's called Mankousheh Zaatar (Oregano Bread) or stuffed with Cheese and its Mankousheh Jibneh or stuffed with meat and its called Lahem BiAjeen or Sfeeha.

In every corner of every neighbourhood in Beirut, you will find a Manakish Bakery; they open with the first light of the day, to prepare their dough, to be ready with the first customer entering their doors. During breakfast rush hour, all the bakeries are busy. On the weekend you have to have a ticket specially if some ladies, bring their own Zaatar mix to make their own Manakish at the bakery; you will ask for some dough and they give it to you rolled on a wooden board, one beside the other, as much as you want, when you finish stuffing your bread, they will bake it for you . Some ladies even bring Zaatar and cheese mix or meat mix for Lahem Bi Ajeen or Sfeeha. This is how much we love our Manakish burning hot out of the oven, served with fresh mint leaves, some black olives and slices of tomatoes.

You will have a nice treat , If you get to taste Mankousheh done on the Saj, which is a metal disk burns either on wood or Propane Gas. My mom has a Gas Saj she bought it to make our daily lavash bread during the war . Our treat at the end of a bread day; baking some nice hot Mankousheh on the Saj. On some weekends we used to invite our neighbors in the building for Manakish breakfast with Zaatar and Cheese accompanied with a cup of warm tea.
Because my mom is a farmer's daughter, she is used to prepare all the food specially the Mouneh from scratch (Mouneh is the larder that comprises foodstuff preserved in the ancient tradition for th winter season, and I am her daughter) which includes making the Zaatar Mix... which till now I find it the best mix I have ever tasted...her secret is adding some toasted nuts to the wild thyme/oregano , sumac , toasted unshelled sesame seeds, she also adds toasted chickpeas, and sometimes toasted pistachios or peanuts....and she ground them all in a big stone mortar and pestle...

I do get my share from her amazing Zaatar mix. She became friends with a spice mill place in our area, she takes some Zaatar to Sami the owner to package the Zaatar in a sealed bag from his Mill... this way if she is travelling or sending it with someone... she will not have any problem at the customs... Smart!

To prepare the best Mankousheh, you must have a good quality of Zaatar mix, good quality of Olive Oil, I like the Greek Olive Oil, because its very close to our oil, most of all a good dough, because if you don't have a good dough, all the above will not matter.

when making my dough I use Sourdough Starter:
1 cup starter, with 2 cups of warm liquid (combination of water and 1/2 cup olive oil)
4 cups of unbleached flour, one teaspoon of dry yeast one tsp salt and tbsp of sugar....
the dough needs to rest and take its time to double... be patient and don't ever rush your dough
a cup or so of a sponge dough. Sometimes you need to add some more flour or more liquid , it all depends on the climate , the flour brand and your sponge.

When the dough rise and double, I take around a big ball and put in a freezer bag, to use it the next time I make another bread dough.
Zaatar Mix: Can be purchase from any Middle Eastern/Lebanese Store and you mix it with olive you to a spreadable Constancy to cover your dough... If the mix is too thick the Mankousheh will be dry and if the mix is too runny from the olive oil it will run out of the dough and burns before the bread is baked.

My weakness

A Treat from mom

Greek Olive Oil or Italian

Mom Zaatar Packaged in Sami Bittar's Spice Bags

Good in children lunch boxes

This is how I introduced the Manakish @ the Farmer's Market the first year..Now they all want the real Mankousheh.

Note: Mankousheh is a single Oregano Bread
Manakish is the plural of Mankousheh

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lebanese Chicken Provencal & BloggerAid Culinary Olympic 2010

BACFF is hosting an event to promote both our sport (food) and our mission (to be actively promoting the alleviation of world hunger). We invite you to participate and represent your country. Here’s how:

1. beginning today and ending on February 28th at midnight, please submit a recipe that represents your country to blogs4famine (at) gmail (dot) com. Let's show some national pride in our countries cuisine.

2. Include the name of your blog (if you have one), your URL and a photo of your submission.

3. Feel free to use the event logo/avatar and include a photo of your country flag (the flag is optional but we’re encouraging national pride)

4. Post your submission on your blog with a link back to BACFF at and also a short piece encouraging readers to buy The BloggerAid Cookbook available at Create Space Include stories of your countries athletes, cuisine or anything else you would like to include. It is only limited by your imagination!!!!

Here are some general guidelines:

1. if you’re an expat, you can choose to either create something that represents your country of birth or the country you are currently in.

2. You must be a member of BACFF to participate

3. All entries will be posted on BACFF on March 5th.

From a small Country of 10,452 km2, three Lebanese athletes marched their way to represent Lebanon in the Winter Olympic Games in Alpine Skiing.

The tourism industry in Lebanon has been historically important to the local economy and remains to this day to be a major source of revenue for Lebanon. Before the Lebanese Civil War , Lebanon was widely regarded as, "The Switzerland of the Middle East." Often being cited as a financial and business hub where visitors can experience the Levantine Mediterranean Culture.

Skiing is one of the winter sports in Lebanon, we have seven skiing places .

Like British Columbia, in Lebanon you will be skiing on top of high mountain slops and in two hours you will be swimming in a beautiful azure warm water.

For the second year Beirut is voted the best tourist destination in the world according the New York Times.

I am participating in the BloggerAid Culinary Olympic 2010 Event. Though I am now a new Canadian, married and living in North Bay, a beautiful city in Northern Ontario. I was born and raised in Lebanon, and the love of my Country is very strong inside my heart, I share it with my family, with friends and with every one I meet, through the food and the flavours I write about in my blog.

My recipe is extremely tasty, full of flavours, easy to prepare. Though the dish includes chicken, this meal can be a tasty vegan dish, by omitting the chicken and only using roasted potatoes, and following the rest of the step

Lebanese Chicken Provencal


1-1 whole grain fed air chilled chicken

(Or a store bought roasted chicken)

2- 2 pounds of potatoes washed and cut into cubes

3- 1 large fresh cilantro

4- 2-3 heads of garlic

5- Fresh lemon juice from 2-3 depends on your taste

6- 2 tablespoons olive oil

7- 2 tablespoons canola oil

8- Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

9- 1/3 -1/2 cup of homemade chicken stock


Wash and dry the chicken, rub with salt and pepper and roast it in the oven, starting in a warm oven at 450F for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375F, turn the chicken on the other side and continue roasting... If you have a convection oven, use the convection setting.

Clean and cut the potatoes into cubes, roast them in the oven with the chicken. Add the salt, pepper and the canola oil.

When the chicken is cooked, take it out, and let it cool, debone it and keep the bones for the stock, or freeze them for later.

Wash the fresh cilantro, coarsely chop it. Peel the garlic, and using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and cilantro adding little salt.

Prepare your baking dish, add the sliced chicken to the dish, and when the potatoes are ready add them over the chicken and mix them , pour the olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice over the cilantro and mix well and pour the mixture over the chicken and potatoes, mix well to combine.. Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Cover the dish with foil, and return it to the oven. Bake in 350F oven for 10 minutes, then take the cover off and continue roasting for another 10 minutes or until the liquid is soaked and started to roast again…

The smell is amazing