With its assertive flavour, Za’atar or Zaatar is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking. It can be sprinkled as a flavouring ingredient on the flatbreads or used as a condiment in the soups and curries. This is one of the most popular Middle Eastern spice blends used extensively in the dishes across this region. It constitutes a mixture of sesame seeds, ground herbs, and spices.
The Main Ingredients of Zaatar:
Zaatar is an ancient heritage having biblical references as well. There are many spices that are used as a mainstay in Zaatar spice blend. They include:
- Wild thyme herb that is native to the Middle East.
- Sumac powder for lemony flavour.
- Sesame seeds for nutty and crunchy flavour.
- Sea salt to taste.
Apart from these, it can also include oregano and marjoram but these spices are optional.
History of Zaatar:
To delve deeper into the composition and alluring mixture of a spice blend, it is essential to understand the history behind it. Zaatar has been associated with Middle Eastern cooking since ages. It has many references and a strong reputation to be a brain food. In fact, in the 12th Century, a Spanish Jewish philosopher named Maimonides used to prescribe this blend to his patients for curing many diseases.
Health Benefits of Zaatar:
This flavour spice from the Middle East has been revered for its strong medicinal properties. The ingredients are rich sources of antioxidants. For example, sumac is composed of flavonoids while thyme and oregano are rich in thymol and carvacrol. Both these compounds have robust antioxidant and antiseptic properties.
In some cases, Thymol is also recommended for patients suffering from bronchitis to control their coughing fits. Some modern studies have been conducted to research about the role of these Middle Eastern spice blends as brain food. But, these studies are still inconclusive. So, they need more work before it’s proven. But, anyway, the amazing flavour of this spice mix is definitely the best thing to end up on your platter.
How to Use Zaatar?
There are many culinary incarnations of this amazing spice. Most commonly, it is sprinkled on the bread, moist veggies, hummus, salads, and fruits. It has an aromatic and tart taste. It can be used as a dressing on salads or as a rub on the meats. Many bakeries in the region offer flatbread with a pasty mix of olive oil and zaatar that is served hot.
However, when buying this spice blend, you should be cautious as there are some fake versions as well. In this spice, thyme is the primary ingredient. Hence, high-quality spices are processed to use only the soft leaves of the herb. They do not have any fillers or artificial ingredients. So, stay informed and choose the best.