Zaatar (also spelt Z'atar or Za'aatar, Zahatar or Zatar) is a spice mixture that has been popular in the Middle East for centuries for seasoning meats and flat breads. It is a mixture of wild oregano, hyssop, toasted white sesame seeds, sumac and salt. Sometimes other herbs are added such as hyssop (as mentioned in the bible) thyme and cumin and fennel seed. Different versions of za'atar will differ greatly in proportions, but this one is my favorite that I keep returning to.
This is a quality blend of zaatar and will last for a long time. I learnt to store mine in the freezer door as I saw that this is what many of my Israeli neighbours do as they say it keeps the flavour fresher - although this is not essential and you can store it in a jar in a cupboard.
The Lebanese believe that Zaatar keeps the mind alert and the body strong, and they give their children a sandwich with zaatar before sitting examinations. It is also popular in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, North Africa and Israel (where this blend is from). It is used to spice meat and poultry and vegetables, and it can be mixed with olive oil to make a spread. Zaatar is delicious sprinkled on either hummus or labane (a yogurt that has been drained until it becomes a creamy cheese). My favorite is when it is spread on a pitta bread or foccacio with a little oil and baked - it makes a delicious herbal pizza, or you can mix it with hot olive oil and dribble it over a bagel for a delicious snack.
Once you start using zaatar in your cooking you will keep finding more ways to use it as it is so delicious. Zaatar is expensive in the UK / USA as it can be bought in small quantities in the supermarket or specialist foods stores. In Israel it is a staple food available everywhere at reasonable prices.
Pictured here is the mix itself, zaatar on pitta breads and zaatar that is growing before it is picked and dried.