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Filled, Rolled and Devoured

I am on a high this week! I had a wonderful Brunch Club (my first one ever!) on Sunday, the sun is shining with promise of more to come and I have a couple of other things to plan this week that I just can't wait to start promoting. All in all, a good week.

You may (or may not) remember that there was an Instagram-wide initiative last year called #AprilIsForArabFood. This year it's started up again and we are well and truly living it now. Well, I am anyway. I love this initiative. Even though I cook Arabic food all the time, a lot of people don't and it's a really nice way of promoting the different aspects of it.

For instance, last week's focus was "filled and stuffed food". I have a gorgeous recipe for stuffed potatoes that I wrote for you a while back and that's immediately what I thought of when the topic came up. But actually, I made something at my brunch club that also fit the bill. And, by all reports they were delicious.

One of the most famous breakfast foods in the Middle East is manakeesh. This is Arabic bread dough slathered with olive oil and za'atar, cheese or meat and baked really high for 10 minutes or so. Delicious when fresh and a breakfast necessity.

I did not make manakeesh for my brunch but I did make za'atar rolls which are pretty much the same thing but fluffier. I made them like pull apart cinnamon rolls, only this time they were savoury and served warm with hummus, salad, foul and ojja. I'm telling you, you need to come to my brunch.

Or you can make the rolls yourself at home. It takes some measuring of ingredients but the process is relatively hassle free. I will put it out there now, the dough recipe IS NOT MY RECIPE. It is the same recipe I use for all my buns because it has not failed me once. I use Bronte Aurell of Scandinavian Kitchen's recipe for kannelbullar dough. It can be found in her book 'Fika & Hygge'. I will write it out here but I really recommend buying the book - I've tried many of the recipes in there and every single one is delicious and fool proof.

These rolls are perfect as a brunch accompaniment or as something to make for a bring and share meal. They are beautifully savoury and so fundamentally Middle Eastern. If you want something to wow with this Easter, these are your buns.

Za'atar Breakfast Rolls

For the dough

  • 1 sachet of fast action dry yeast

  • 250ml whole milk

  • 80g melted and cooled butter

  • 3 tbsp caster sugar

  • 400g strong white flour

  • 2 tsp ground cardamom 

  • 1tsp salt

  • 1 beaten egg

For the filling:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 tbsp green za'atar

Warm the milk so that it is just warm to the touch (36 degrees C). If you heat it too far it will kill the yeast. Ad the dry yeast and whisk it into the milk. Cover with cling film and let it sit for 15 minutes until it's foamy.

Melt the butter while you're waiting. In a stand mixer, add the milk and yeast mixture when it's ready and then pour in the butter. With a dough hook, mix this for a couple of minutes then add the sugar.

After it's mixed like this for a minute or so, gradually add the flour, salt and cardamom. Once it has all been added, the dough will be very dry so add half of the beaten egg. Knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be stable but a bit sticky. Try not to add too much flour.

Cover the dough in the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for half an hour or until it's doubled in size.

Flour a board or work surface and roll the dough out so that it is 40 x 50cm rectangle. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and spread it all over the dough with a pastry brush or your fingers. Then sprinkle over the za'atar. For better coverage use your fingers to rub the za'atar over the surface properly.

Roll from the bottom (long edge) to the top. I start in one corner and work my way along until the bottom edge is rolled up once and then keep going as if I'm using a rolling pin - rolling the whole thing up, not up and down.

When you end up with a log, shape it by squeezing and stretching so that you have a uniform thickness. Cut the log into twelve even pieces by cutting the roll in half, then quarters then each quarter into three. Lay them in a lined oven dish and cover with a clean tea towel for 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 180 degrees C. When the buns have proved, put them in the oven for 25 minutes or until light brown. The tops will colour more than the bodies so once there is a good colour on top, the rolls will be done. don't be tempted to leave them in too long or they will be dry and crispy.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to serve.


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