Manakish is a popular Lebanese food consisting of dough topped with thyme, cheese, or ground meat. Similar to a pizza, it can be sliced or folded, and it can either be served for breakfast or lunch. The word manaqish is the plural of the Arabic word manqūshah (from the root verb naqasha ‘to sculpt, carve out’), meaning that after the dough has been rolled flat, it is pressed by the fingertips to create little dips for the topping to lie in.
Traditionally, Levantine women would bake dough in a communal oven in the morning, to provide their family with their daily bread needs, and would prepare smaller portions of dough with different toppings for breakfast at this time.
Classic Manakish Toppings
- Za’atar (Arabic: زعتر, za’tar, manaqish bi’l za’tar) – The most popular form of manakish uses za’atar as a topping. The za’atar is mixed with olive oil and spread onto the bread before baking it in the oven. It is a favourite breakfast preparation in Levantine cuisine. It is also served by Palestinian and Lebanese cooks as part of a mezze, or as a snack with a glass of mint tea and feta cheese on the side. Popular also in the Arabian Peninsula, it was likely introduced there by Palestinians making the pilgrimage to Mecca.
- Cheese (Arabic: جبنة, jubnah) – There are two main types of cheese manakish: ‘Akkāwī (Arabic: عكاوي), and Kashqwān (Arabic: قشقوان). People usually mix cheese with zaatar, chicken, or meat when baking manakish to give it a better taste.
- Minced lamb (Arabic: لحم بعجين, lāḥm bi-‘ajīn, “meat with dough”, sfiha) – Other manakish are served for lunch because of their heavier contents. This popular manakish has lamb topping. The minced lamb is mixed with tiny pieces of diced tomato and vegetable oil, and this manakish is optionally served with ground pepper or pickles and yoghurt.
- Chili (Arabic: فليفلة or فلفل حر).
- Kishq (Arabic: كشك).
- Spinach (Arabic: سبانخ), Swiss Chard (Arabic: سلق).
- ½ package active dry yeast
- 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup warm tap water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dried thyme
- 1 cup sumac
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Whisk together the yeast, 1 tablespoon of the flour and ¼ cup warm water in a small bowl and let stand until mixture develops a creamy foam; about 10 minutes. If mixture does not foam, discard and start over with new yeast.
- Next, stir together the salt and ¾ cups flour in a large bowl. Then add yeast mixture and remaining ¼ cup of warm water. Stir until smooth, then mix in another ½ cup flour. If dough sticks to your fingers, stir in just enough flour to make the dough start to pull away from the side of the bowl. This dough may be wetter than familiar Italian pizza dough.
- Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface with floured hands. Lightly re-flour the work surface and your hands when dough becomes too sticky. Work the dough until it is smooth, soft and elastic; about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball, then generously dust with flour and put in a medium bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size; about 1 to 1¼ hours.
- While dough is rising, combine thyme leaves, sumac and sesame seeds in a medium mixing bowl. Sumac is a dark red berry that grows on bushes throughout the Middle East and some parts of Italy. Sumac is sold ground or in dried seed form and can be found at most Middle Eastern markets, or can be ordered from an online specialty company. Next add the olive oil to the mixture to form a paste. This paste is the zaatar mixture.
- When the dough has fully risen, place it onto a floured surface, and press down to form into a disk shape. Spread with the zaatar mixture and place on a pizza stone or oiled pizza pan. Cook in a 175°C oven for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the dough is crispy and brown. Serve warm.