I need your help. Yes, you. I need help understanding how the addition of the word pizza to any circular-shaped baked dough product makes it fathomable all of a sudden. Are humans at a complete loss when faced with baked dough that vaguely resembles pizza or is it just another loose term employed by Mr. Marketing to make ethnic products easier to understand? We should celebrate each product for what it is! Lahmacun, paratha and quesadilla all stand up! And move to the side - it's mana'eesh time.

Mana'eesh are as much Lebanese pizza as pizza is Italian mana'eesh. Usually eaten for breakfast or brunch they're a filling alternative to your usual morning meal. We usually eat these on Sunday when everyone is at home and we all chip in. We made three varieties of mana'eesh this time: za'atar (picked thyme, sesame seeds and sumac), kishk (dried yoghurt and cracked wheat) and a vegetarian alternative to lahm biajin.

350g plain flour
150g semolina
10g dried yeast
280-300ml lukewarm water
two or three teaspoons olive oil

za'atar mix (thyme, sesame seeds, sumac)
olive oil

dried kishk
half a large tomato
half a large onion
pinenuts (optional)

Vegetarian Option
half a large tomato
half a large onion
handful of pinenuts
freshly picked thyme
olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients for the dough and form a well. Slowly pour most of the water into the well and work the ingredients into a smooth, slightly sticky, ball. Do not overwork. Leave to rest at room temperature for half an hour before diving into 8 smaller balls.

Preheat the oven to 300degrees Celsius. Form each ball into a disk ready for the toppings. The za'atar just needs to be mixed with the olive oil and spread. The kishk requires a bit more work.
Heat a saucepan with some oil and fry the onions and tomatoes. Add the dry kishk and slowly work in some water. Make sure the final product is quite thick (the same consistency as a thick custard) before spreading on and adding pinenuts (optional). The vegetarian option requires no cooking but rather a brief period for the flavours to mix together - dice the tomato and onion and everything to bowl to let it infuse. Cook one at a time on a baking tray that isn't prone to warping at high temperature and serve when the crust is golden. There you have it, mana'eesh (not Lebanese pizza)!


27 June 2009 at 20:25 Anonymous said...

Easy there, Edward Said.

2 July 2009 at 12:17 M. A. Salha said...

Good stuff. I don't think I was as vitriolic in my argument. Nor do I truly believe food labels are rooted in any grander ideology. Sure, they can be, but I think this is a product of something a little less devious. We're living in world more connected to each other than ever before and whilst assimilation is important we mustn't elect to dilute culture. I guess this comes on the wave of people in the UK taking a deeper interest in food and thus seeking out some semblance of authenticity where mana'eesh should be mana'eesh and not Lebanese pizza.

Thanks for the comment.

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