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Friday, 11 December 2015

Zaatar Marinated Chicken

Zaatar Chicken is a very simple dish packed with flavour. It is one of those concoctions that you can prepare quickly yet please every single one of your family members. This is a dish that is very old and traditional in Palestinian cuisine. Seasoning food with Zaatar is very common in Palestinian cuisine especially in the kitchens of Bethlehem and its nearing villages such as Beit Jala and Beit Sahoor. It is believed to have originated there and moved from there to Jerusalem, where seasoning with zaatar became also very wide-spread.

The shifting of people from their villages and cities in 1948 and 1967 to eventually settle in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan had carried with them these foods making them popular in their eventual destinations. Ever since then, varieties of Zaatar chicken had become common throughout the Levant, but this remains the traditional recipe as it was first prepared in Bethlehem.

While the original recipe fries the potatoes in one version, and bakes the potatoes raw with the chicken in the second version, I personally season the potatoes with zaatar to pack more of that flavour into them, then roast them separately. I then add them to the finished roasted chicken as I find this to be a more flavoursome option. This way the texture of the potatoes remains crunchy instead of the mushy baked ones, and less drenched with oil as is the case of the fried potatoes. Try it this way and see how you guys are going to really love it.

Zaatar Chicken
Ingredients (4 servings)
For Zaatar Marinated Chicken
1 whole chicken cut into 4 pieces, washed and rubbed with lemon wedges
1/4 cup DS Limited Edition Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tbsp Reduced sour pomegranate juice or 2 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp DS Organic Dried Zaatar Mix
Salt & Black pepper to taste

For Zaatar Flavoured roasted potatoes
4 medium potatoes, washed and cut into wedges
1/4 cup DS Limited Edition Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tbsp DS Organic Dried Zaatar Mix
Salt & Black pepper to taste

Mix all the marinade ingredients together then coat the chicken pieces with the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

When ready to cook, place the chicken pieces and the marinade in a baking dish and bake covered for 45 minutes, uncover and roast for 15 minutes to brown.

In the meantime, mix together the olive oil, zaatar mix and seasoning and coat the potato wedges with the mixture. Place in a single layer over a baking sheet and roast until golden and crisp (45 minutes to 1 hour).

When ready to serve, mix together the potatoes and chicken pieces and serve hot with a side of salad and a variety of pickles. Green olives, turnip pickles and cucumber pickles pair very well here.

Enjoy with your loved ones as I do with mine :)
Find out more about DS Mooneh products on this link
Read more about DS Organic Zaatar Mix and the cause it supports on this link

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Explaining Zaatar!

This is one of the pictures from my in-printing cookbook to be released very soon
Taken by Meeta K. Wolff Photography. The recipes of both the zaatar and the cheese
Mana'ish are included in the cookbook.

Zaatar seems to be a bit of a confusion as I had recently found out. Most are unable to determine what it is. "Is it an herb?", "a spice mix?", "a concoction?", "a dried collection of herbs?"...etc. are all questions am hearing all the time. So I thought - and while I do have it all explained in my book -  to clear this out for you.

Perhaps the confusion is a matter of language barrier, because in Arabic zaatar refers to the plant (the herb), and the dried mix (with varied recipes and flavours depending the country, cuisine and at times even individual tastes) as well as the dried zaatar herb (similar to dried oregano). Whatever reasons behind this, here are the facts...

The Dried Zaatar Mix
is the Arabic word for an herbaceous plant that belongs to the greater family of herbs known as genera origanum (which includes herbs such as oregano, thyme and marjoram as well as zaatar). All the herbs that belong to this family have very similar properties and fall within the same aroma one way or the other. Some happen to be more pungent, while others are milder however more or less very similar.

With that said, Zaatar is most popularly the Arabic term that applies specifically to the herb that is Origanum Syriacum. In the many Arabic-speaking areas there are different varieties of zaatar, all of which are referred to as zaatar in Arabic language, however only the variety indigenous to the Levant (which is the ones I am using to make my Dried Zaatar Mix) that is actually origanum Syriacum. the rest are other herb varieties within the genera origanum family. It is worth mentioning here that as the different regions produce different plants the flavour is also varied yet within the same bounds of the family of origanum.

The Zaatar I use in my dried zaatar mix is the variety indigenous to the Levant (Oreganum Syriacum). As over there, a very pungent variety of zaatar grows that has a short round leaf and known to be the most pungent zaatar in the origanum family.  

Zaatar In Arabic Cuisine
Zaatar is widely used and has many applications.

There is the fresh zaatar, which is a popular herb to serve next to food, or mixed into the food. There is even a dedicated zaatar salad, which is a salad of fresh zaatar leaves and sliced onions, some even add green or black olives to this salad and even white cheese. The salad is usually dressed with a lemon and olive oil dressing and is seasoned with salt, black pepper and sumac. An amazing salad that I can have any time!
The fresh leaves are also used in the making of bread, where the picked, washed and squeezed leaves are added to bread dough and baked. The most popular of which is the Palestinian Fteer Zaatar (recipe in my book).

Dukka a variety of dried zaatar mix. This is absolutely Dukka and not zaatar as zaatar is just another of its components
not the main component.

Then there is the dried mix, which comes in a variety of styles. The variety of the mix ranges from Zaatar to Dukka. Zaatar being the greener variety that uses no to minimal other flavourings (the more flavourings used the more towards Dukka zaatar becomes). In Dukka, zaatar is another one of the components of the mix, and by no means the main compnent. It is is zaatar mixed with sumac and/or other spices, and has a more reddish colour to it than green. The less reddish the colour, the more zaatar is used, the more reddish the colour, the less zaatar is used. This is the most popular type of zaatar around the Middle East. The use/addition of spices to the dried zaatar mix varies from maker to another.

There is the traditional Palestinian Zaatar mix, which is pure Zaatar and sesame, no added ingredients (spices or any other flavourings). This is the method I use in making my zaatar: Pure and uninterrupted zaatar experience following my family's ancient recipe. Then the well known Jordanian Zaatar Mix which mixes in Sumac with the Zaatar, however keeping the zaatar as the main ingredient. The Lebanese and Syrian Zaatar also mix in Sumac and some even add Lemon Salt to it. There are makers who add oregano to the mix, cumin and some even add a variety of other spices including dried coriander to habiscus... However the latter additions are not original to the dried zaatar mix, they are more individual takes on this classic component of Arabic cuisine.

How this dried zaatar mix is used
The Dried Zaatar mix is popularly eaten for breakfast, as bread will be dipped in oil, then dipped in this zaatar. It is usually served alongside sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. It makes many children's school sandwiches in the Middle East and is also used in the making of Zaatar Mana'ish (see the picture opening thia post from my in-printing cookbook).

The Traditional Palestinian Concoction
Zaatar Chicken
The dried mix is also used in the baking of bread, and other pastries in Arabic cuisine. It is also used as a seasoning to Salads; this is especially popular in Palestinian Cuisine, and the Palestinian Cuisine is also known for using this mix in the seasoning of concoctions and marinating Chicken, take the the cuisine's traditional concoction 'Zaatar Chicken' for example. This is especially true in the smaller cuisines of Bethlahem and Jerusalem (detailed in my cookbook).

Because it takes a whole lot of fresh zaatar to dry and make the zaatar mix (which becomes more expensive to produce) a lot of makers will add too much of other flavourings to increase the yield. Some take it as far as cheating the quantity by adding ground grains to the mix. This of course affects the flavour of zaatar and its final quality. Look out for good quality zaatar that does not have any of these additions, a zaatar mix should be made out of zaatar, not mixed with ground wheat! Good zaatar is really worth the extra buck, because it is the real zaatar and its flavour is unmatched!

I hope that this clears out some of the confusion as to what Zaatar is.
I do believe that I make the world's best Dried Zaatar Mix, but of course I am biased! Therefore, don't just take my word for it, but ask everyone who has tried it (see my instagram feed @1dimasharif ) and better still, drop by at The Farmers' Market On The Terrace* and try my zaatar out yourself. You will then know the difference! I am there every Friday selling it along with many other varieties of my fantastic Organic Mooneh Essentials ;)

The Farmers' Market On The Terrace : #TFMOTT is a real farmers' Market where you get to buy produce staright from the farmers, with no middleman involved. I source all my ingredients for home-cooking as well as for producing my Organic Mooneh Essentials from there, and I also sell my mooneh there. This market takes place every Friday from 8 am - 12 30 pm at Bay Avenue (behind the Executive Towers) 

Find out more about my Mooneh products on this link
Read more about my Zaatar and the cause it supports on this link

Will be posting the Zaatar chicken Recipe next.
In the meantime, dip your bread in my limited edition organic EV olive oil, then second dip it in my organic dried zaatar mix and taste the flavours of real, natural and outstanding produce. Back to land and home.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Made with love & sold with love! - Zaatar O Zeit ( Zaatar & Olive Oil )

A post about love, read to the end and see what I mean...

From the first day of The farmers' Market On The Terrace
Come, taste, then buy

Farmers' Market, Dubai
As I am sure you know the new season of The Farmers' Market on The Terrace had kicked off last Friday. To me, this is Dubai's best season, not only because the weather is fantastic and we get to be outdoors, but also because this is the season when food is that much more flavoursome as we get plenty of gorgeous local produce that is packed with flavour. The salads suddenly become gorgeous, the herbs are pungent and we get a chance to choose eating seasonal and support local produce and farmers. What more could any foodie or home cook ever ask for?

DS Organic Mooneh Essentials
Made with love and also sold for love

I for one am making best use of this seasonal offering, and right now purchasing products to prepare a wider range of my Organic Mooneh Essentials for you. I am working on new pickles with what is in season and each week's growing list of available produce, preparing some relishes and sauces and I am also working on a few other products (all new) that I will be sharing with you as soon as they are ready. This is the whole point behind my mooneh range of products.. it is to make best use of this gorgeous seasonal and organic produce to prepare condiments, and everyday cooking essentials that are not just good for you but also help you cook and serve delicious food to your family and guests without putting in the extra hours should you not have the luxury of time on your hands.

Since the season had just started, most products are in the making, however, I do have some great products available (which I am selling every Friday at The Farmers' Market On The Terrace at Bay Avenue). While my line's priority is local produce (I love supporting the local farmers), some produce is not available locally, such as olive oil for instance. Such produce I purchase from this region's best artisanal producers that I personally pick, and any such produce that is not sourced locally I purchase, produce with so much love and sell to support a cause (simply for love). Therefore, the profit from these regionally sourced products will go to support a cause and you will see which causes I am supporting in the description of each product. Check out the products, descriptions and causes on this link.
Please note that these are all updated regularly, the list grows and with it the descriptions and causes, so do drop by that link often to stay updated. 

To me the Olive Tree, Olives & Olive Oil are the one true symbol for pure love
(read my book you will understand)

DS Zeit Zeitoon (Olive Oil)
Pouring from the love for the Palestinian Olive Tree 
(The Nebali Tree. The tree indigenous to the Palestinian city Nablus.)

I have available my fantastic award-winning, certified Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is the produce of Jordan, from a family farm that grows Nebali olive trees. Many of you have already tried my olive oil and have given me amazing feedback. If you still haven't tried it, you really must, drop by this friday and try it, because it really is an outstanding olive oil with 0.5 acidity (very rare to achieve, most of the best olive oils are of 0.8 acidity!). This outstanding and very limited edition olive oil (1000 (500 ml) bottles in total) is fruity and lends that amazing flavour to any food you drizzle it on.

DS Limited Edition Organic EVOO
Pouring from the love for the Palestinian Olive Tree
Fish is fish, labneh is labneh and hummus is hummus but once you drizzle this oil over them, you serve an outstanding flavour and no one will even think it is so outstanding because of the olive oil! 
This is exactly what I have been telling you all along: it is all in the quality of the raw ingredients that good food happens. And this is just a testament of that!

Since this produce is not locally sourced and therefore is not one supporting the local farmers as my other locally sourced products, it is a DS product that supports a cause. The profit from this Olive Oil along with that from my Organic Dried Zaatar Mix will go to support up to 5 single-mother Palestinian families living in the Palestinian Refugee camps in Jordan.

DS Dried Zaatar Mix
Made with Love & Sold For Love
What is food if it does not have soul? And what is soul if it does not have love in it?

DS Organic Dried Zaatar Mix
Jars filled with the aroma of childhood memories 
and the essence of continuity

To me, this is the one product of mine that has the most beautiful story. The fresh zaatar (organic produce of Jordan) is hand picked by Palestinian women living in the Palestinian Refugee Camps in Jordan. The women then pick the fresh zaatar leaves off the stems, one-by-one and by hand. The leaves are then washed and dried to then be rubbed by hand and preserved then mixed with the toasted sesame. The whole process is carried out by hand, by these women and managed by my amazing grandmother, who makes sure it is done following our ancient family's method! This Zaatar is pure zaatar, not mixed with any spices, only including the dried zaatar and the toasted sesame seeds following the traditional Palestinian method. Then it is shipped to me to package and have ready for you. (you really have to read my book to understand the depth of all this and what it means to me.)

DS Organic Dried Zaatar Mix
Jars filled with the aroma of childhood memories
To me, as to most of you, Zaatar is the aroma of childhood memories. We all had the bowls of zaatar and olive oil on the kitchen table ready to eat any minute. We all had zaatar sandwiches many times in school. We all had zaatar manaqeesh very frequently and we all had zaatar aromatise many of our mothers' concoctions. 
I love capturing the aroma of our childhood memories in these jars of uninterrupted zaatar. Just open the jar, close your eyes and smell, and I know it will take you right back to that kitchen!

The best thing though is that these women, sit with their daughters who sometimes help them make it. And that is just beautiful as in this culture the mothers and daughters have always helped each other in the making of mooneh and that is exactly how mooneh know-how is passed from generation to the next ensuring continuity. And if that is not what food is about, and if that does not make childhood memories and if that is not soul, and if that is not love, then I don't know what is! In every part, every thought, and every component, in the product and the process, in the whole circle of women, in my grandmother's support, in the girl's help to her mother and her mother's passing of knowledge to her, in me explaining this to you ... it is just pure love all round. And all I ever wish to do is capture all that in every single jar of my products.

Since this produce is not locally sourced and therefore is not one supporting the local farmers as my other locally sourced products, it is a DS product that supports a cause. The profit from this Organic Dried Zaatar Mix along with my Limited Edition Organic EVOO will go to support up to 5 single-mother Palestinian families living in the Palestinian Refugee camps in Jordan.

See you this Friday at the farmers' market (find the map on this link) and stay tuned to my
Zaatar-marinated chicken recipe coming up....