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  • Salma Hage

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An authority on Homestyle middle eastern cooking gets creative with her stock of vegetarian dishes destined for the communal table. Recipes by Salma Hage. Photographs by Haarala Hamilton.

Chickpea pancakes 

Serves 8 

If I had a restaurant of my own, I’d serve za’atar shakers on the table, alongside the salt and pepper. This simple savoury pancake can be eaten hot on its own as a snack or presented as a base for a spiced lentil and pine nut curry. Whatever you do, don’t scrimp on the za’atar.

I make my own jars of za’atar to have on-hand and to give out to friends and family, but there are some great versions available now from larger supermarkets. Look for a fine powder with flecks of whole sesame seeds throughout the mix.


150g (1½ cups) gram flour

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons za’atar 

Dill, for sprinkling


In a large bowl, combine the gram flour, salt and cayenne pepper. Gradually whisk in 250ml (1 cup) warm water, until the mixture is smooth. Cover and set aside to ferment for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours for a more complex flavour.

When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7. Whisk 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the batter.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large oven-proof frying pan or skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes, until the oil is sizzling. Pour in the chickpea batter and cook for 5 minutes, until the sides are set and beginning to look crisp and golden on the outside.

Sprinkle over the za’atar, then place the pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with the dill. Serve whole or cut into wedges.

Alternatively, heat a little of the oil in a frying pan and cook a ladleful of the batter at a time for thinner, individual pancakes.

Fresh and crunchy fattoush  

Serves 4

There’s no escaping it, fattoush is served with nearly every meal in my homeland. It will often contain some combination of bread, cucumber, tomatoes and, crucially, sumac.

Sumac is a sharp, burgundy-coloured spice often used in place of lemon or lime. When buying it, choose small quantities or a dark spice as the intensity of flavour lessens over time as the spice is exposed to the air.


1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon coriander seeds

400g mixed tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 wholemeal pitta breads, torn into bite-size pieces

1 heaped tablespoon sumac

1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and watery seeds removed

1 head cos (romaine) lettuce, leaves roughly torn

1 heaped tablespoon za’atar 


In a large bowl, combine the onion, vinegar, sugar and coriander seeds. With clean hands, scrunch until the onion begins to soften. Top with a clean jar or bowl to press down on the salad and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the pitta and pan-fry for 8 minutes, until crispy and golden. Stir in the sumac and remove from the heat.

Chop the cucumber into 1-cm half-moons. Add to the bowl of tomatoes and toss well. Add the lettuce and za’atar and stir again.

On a serving platter, combine the tomato mixture, pickled onions and pitta and mix well. Serve immediately.


Makes 6

Dimpled manakish are famed for their wobbly surface (the root of the word means to “engrave” or “carve out”). Like pizza, manakish offer seemingly endless topping possibilities, but the most common are za’atar and oil and melted cheese. I like to prepare a few topping options and allow guests to choose their own.


7g fast-action (active dry) yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

325g (2¾ cups) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the toppings

Za’atar and olive oil

Sliced tomatoes and olives

Grated halloumi cheese and wilted spinach or dried mint


In a bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and 190 ml (scant 1 cup) tepid water. Stir to combine, then set aside until the yeast has started to foam (about 10 minutes).

Mix the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the oil and water mixture. Bring together with your hands in the bowl before turning out onto a surface dusted with flour to knead for 10 minutes until smooth and bouncy.

Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Divide the dough into 6 and roll into balls. Use a rolling pin to roll out to 1 cm thickness, about 15 cm diameter. Top with your chosen topping, or a mixture of all 3 and bake, in batches if needed on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet for 12 minutes until golden.

Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

No-churn tahini-espresso ice cream   

Makes 750ml (3 cups)

Once you’ve discovered how easy it is to make no-churn ice cream, you’ll wonder why you ever made it any other way. Condensed milk seems to have fallen out of favour as an ingredient in recent years, but it’s the key to the richness and sweetness of this ice cream.


425ml (13/4 cups) double (heavy) cream

½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt

1 x (397g) can condensed milk

125ml (½ cup) very strong coffee or espresso

3 tablespoons tahini


In a large bowl, combine the cream, vanilla and salt. Using an electric whisk, whisk until the mixture resembles Greek yogurt. Add the condensed milk, coffee and tahini. Mix again until it has the consistency of Greek yogurt.

Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container and cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) or beeswax wrap. Place in the freezer for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Defrost the ice cream for 5 minutes, then serve.

The ice cream can be stored in the freezer for 3 months. 

This is an extract from “The Levantine Vegetarian: Recipes From the Middle East” by Salma Hage (Phaidon), $59.95,

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our twelfth edition, Page 78 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Shareable Content”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.  


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