Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Za'atar wedges, tomatoes and spiced runner beans

For those of you who are not familiar za'atar, za'atar is a Middle eastern spice mixture. It is blend made from dried herb(s) namely wild thyme and wild oregano mixed together with flecks of sesame seeds, sumac and salt. For me the flavour is zesty and the fragrance can only be described as earthy.

In parts of the Middle East, zaatar is traditionally eaten as part of a breakfast with labneh (a yogurt cheese), olive oil and flatbread. But some of us will be more familiar with it as an hors d'oeuvre, aperitif or as a exotic salad dressing. Popularised in recent times by celebrity chefs, TV cooks or up-market fast food eateries in London.

I can't remember exactly how i discovered za'atar, I think it may have been one of the spice jars my mother in law brought back for me from Turkey along with sumac. Then I remembered the first time I went to Cyprus I had eaten a spiced flat bread at a market. This was made by a Turkish vendor selling home-made Turkish delights from his mobile van. I really wanted the lahmacun, something described as a Turkish pizza. Unfortunately for me it was made with minced meat, so I settled for a pizza like bread that was seasoned with herbs. I have to admit I thought it was going to be dull, but I was hungry and waited becoming slowly fascinated by the cooking techniques. I watched closely, first make the pizza like flatbread on a hot griddle, then drizzle it with olive oil, generously scatter over some za'atar and olives. This was then rolled like a cigara boregi and eaten on the go. It was truly one of the most delicious things I had eaten. I still remember the unique flavours .

Anyway, back to the present, whilst hunting through my tardis like kitchen cupboards, I came across a jar of za'atar. I remembered picking it up at a fair trade event during Refugee Week a little while ago, along with some delicious Palestinian olive oil. Both ingredients had been pushed to the back of the cupboard, so had not been used much, until today.
For those of you know of my greed for potato wedges, will not be surprised to learn that halfway through the roasting process, I generously sprinkled over some za'atar.
And after cutting the tomatoes in half, they too were given the same treatment, drizzled with olive oil and baked in the oven till they began to droop a little. Oh My gosh they were so tasty. But the overwhelming flavours did not stop there. Oh no there had to be some green on the plate and these spiced runner bean finished the dish off perfectly.
Runner Beans cooked in oil with paprika
Serves 2
250g runner beans,
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
garlic clove, crushed
150ml water
salt and pepper to taste
Wash and top and tail the beans. Cut into diagonal slices. Heat the oil, paprika and cayenne pepper in a saucepan, then stir in the garlic and the beans. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the beans are tender. Check seasoning and serve. Adapted from Rose Elliot's Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.


  1. I'm not sure I've ever heard of or had runner beans. The recipe looks delish! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I look forward to reading yours now!

  2. I honestly have not really experimented with this spice, but you make it sound amazing! I have got to try it! I love this style of cooking you have done, where the ingredients are clean and simple so you can really TASTE the flavors of everything! It looks amazing! And thanks for the great explanation of za'atar!

  3. Mangocheeks, this all looks so delicious and so colourful too. Although I am now using sumac I have yet to use za'atar - looks like I need to remedy this. Last year I was eating my runner beans with garlic and preserved lemons - it's very good. Now waiting for this years beans - only just started growing at about 2 inches high, so I could be waiting for some time!

  4. Like yourself..I have some za'atar somewhere in the spice cupboard....must dig it out...quite a unique flavor isn't it!! Thanks for reminding me... and I never thought about sprinkling it on wedge they were awesome))))

  5. These looks bad ass. I have never used runner beans before. Amazing!

  6. I had never heard of za'atar before; I'm intrigued...I'll have to try some soon. All the food you've described in this post sounds so delicious, and the dish you made looks really colorful and satisfying. I'm hungry!

  7. Mmmm, this sounds like my dream meal! :-) Zaatar is my favorite spice mix of all time - reading about your delicious Zaatar potatoes and tomatoes made my day! :-)

  8. so delicious! za'atar is one of my favorite things. I've always had it with bread, never vegetables. I'm sure the infusion of flavors was awesome & this I really, really have to try for myself soon.

  9. Drool drool, that looks perfect for the summer!

  10. That looks absolutely delicious!
    You are so creative!
    I have an organic vegetable patch over here in Italy, and I love copying your fantastic dishes!

  11. I adore za'atar! I bet the potatoes are delicious.

    Never had runner beans before, as far as I know, but they look wonderful. :)

    Also, I've passed on some awards to you in appreciation of your lovely blog. :)

  12. Thank you so much for coming by mine Heather.

    Runner beans are also known as scarlet runner beans and are flat.

    Thank you Choclette.
    If you like sumac, I have no doubt you will enjoy za'atar. I am looking into making some other recipes soon.

    Runner beans with garlic and preserved lemons sounds lovely. I'll keep it in mind should i find myself overflowing with them. My beans are starting to climb up the pole. I also planted a dwarf variety, 'hestia' they were really prolific last year. I have them growing in pots, so look forward to that harvest. They are already in flower!

    Thank you Morgan.
    Please do try it, I think it is lovely and think you may just like it too!

  13. Hello Hannah of Adventures in Domestic Cooking.
    Thank you so much for your very sweet and appreciated comment.

    You must dig it out and use it - otherwise before you know it, it will have passed it seel by date!

    The wedges certainly were Awesome))))

    Hello Vic - HayMarket8.
    Now that is a compliment of sorts. Thanks I guess :D

    Your the second fellow blogger to say that. Runner beans are so popular in the U.K. Perhaps they go under a different name in the US?!

  14. Rose.
    If you should ever come across a jar or a packet of za'atar, I instruct you to pick it up. I think you would like it, especially if you think the fopod I have presented here sounds delicious. I can vouch that it was Delicious and I am so glad it made you hungry (LOL)!

    Oh Astra Libris.
    I am so pleased that you like this. Thank you for sharing that Zaatar is my favorite spice mix, I can certainly see why

    Thanks Grapefruit.
    I am either going to bake some bread soon or pick up some good bread and eat some of this za'atar with bread and oil.

    Please do try it with vegetables, I think you will LOVE it.

  15. Ah Thank you so much Emmalene.

    Oh Mariabei.
    It is so lovely to receive a comment from you. Thank you so much for your lovely comment that is really appreciated. I am really happy to read that you like my recipes.

    I am also always happy to read and learn about fellow bloggers vegetable patches. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Thank you so, so much Mo.
    I am truly Thankful and appreciative of your nomination and your kind blogger award. Thank you so much for thinking of me and humbling me with this Award.

  16. Mangocheeks,

    Thanks for your lovely remarks on my blog today. These potato cakes look sumptuous, as does all of the food you so kindly share here. I'm glad you enjoyed your holiday and I hope all is well with you and your family.

  17. Your so welcome e.

    And Thank you for being YOU too and for your honesty.

  18. I've not heard of Za'atar before but I'm going to look for it now after seeing those pictures! I'm lucky to live right near a whole mile of Indian and Middle Eatern shops and restaurants so hopefully should be able to find some.

  19. Thank you so much for visiting Jimi - You should be able to find some in the Middle Eastern shop. Enjoy za'atar hunting.


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