A few years back, my husband was posted at Nigeria and living there as an expat for a year, I had the opportunity to enjoy the most delicious and authentic foods from various cuisines – Moroccan, Italian, Lebanese, French, Chinese and of course I tried the local Nigerian dishes too (Jollof Rice being my favourite). The restaurants were run mostly by expats from these nations who ensured that they provided the authentic flavours of their country/ cuisine; unlike restaurants here in India where the taste is tweaked to suit and appeal the local palate.
We enjoyed all cuisines but we could never get enough of the Lebanese food. Once back in India, I tried Lebanese food here but the flavors were nowhere near what we had there. Lack of availability of ingredients here, ensured that I could never try out those dishes in my kitchen. But that changed a year back when these exotic ingredients became available at a store near my house. The food adventurer in me, always eager to try new cuisines and dishes, could finally put to rest that itch. While in Nigeria, one thing that we always used to order at the Lebanese restaurant was a za’atar topped flat bread served with hummus. I wanted to recreate the flavors of that flat bread so I have deviated slightly from the traditional Lavash toppings of sesame and opted for za’atar instead. These crackers are great for parties (ensure you make a huge batch coz they will be polished off within no time!) or enjoy them while watching your favourite TV show.
Here is proportion of ingredients I used…
1 cup all purpose flour (Maida)
½ cup water (for kneading the dough)
3-4 tbsp za’atar (the amount depends on your taste)
2 tsp black sesame seeds (optional)
A few table spoons water for moistening the rolled dough
In a mixing bowl, stir together APF, wheat flour, semolina, and salt. Keep aside.
Warm 2-3 tbsp of water (from ½ cup of water required for kneading) and stir in sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over water and leave it undisturbed for 10 minutes or till it becomes frothy.
Pour the oil to the yeast water and add this mix to the flour mix. Bring the dough together adding rest of the water. Add more water, a table spoon at a time, if required. Knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough should be medium soft. Bring together the dough to make a large ball.
Using just a wee bit of oil, grease the dough ball all around and keep it in a glass bowl to rise/ proofing. Keep it aside for 2 hours or till it doubles in size. Once done, knock the dough back.
Divide the dough into four equal sized balls and using a little oil, thinly roll out one ball on the kitchen counter. Transfer the rolled dough over parchment paper (you can even roll the dough over the parchment paper).
Place the parchment paper over a baking sheet. Moisten the rolled dough with a little water and then prick it all over using a fork.
Sprinkle za’atar mix all over and mark the dough with a pizza cutter to the shape and size of your choice. You do not need to separate the crackers at this point. They will separate easily once they are baked. (Marking the rolled dough is optional. You can bake it as a sheet and then break it into shards upon cooling)
Bake at 180-190 degrees for 12 – 15 minutes or till the crackers begin to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool before storing them in an air tight container.
Work in a similar way with the remaining balls of dough.
Note: The time of baking will depend on how thin you have rolled the dough. I had rolled the dough very thin and it took approximately 12 minutes.
TAHINI BEETROOT DIP
2 medium beets (roasted & finely shredded – or you can blitz it to get a paste)
1 flake garlic, not too large (finely minced)
½ tsp ground roasted cumin
1 tbsp tahini (adjust to taste)
1 tsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of lemon
1 tbsp olive oil (adjust to taste) plus extra for drizzling.
Mix everything together and and serve drizzled with olive oil.
Note: You can blitz everything together in a food processor or a mixer-grinder to get a smooth paste but I prefer texture in my dips therefore I finely shredded the beets and slightly mashed them with the back of a fork.
Note: See this post on how to roast the beets.
Serves 4 – 5
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