Manakeesh (pronounced mana’eesh) or mu’ajjinat are savoury Arabic pastries that are uber popular within Middle Eastern and especially Levantine cuisine. They’re essentially an Arab’s answer to pizza, consisting of a dough base topped with various toppings like za’atar, labneh, cheese or even ground meat. They’re often folded, sliced or served as mini-pizzas (ubiquitous at all and any family function while I was growing up) and are traditionally eaten for breakfast or lunch. My personal favourite was always spinach and cheese, freshly baked and piping hot from our local bakery.
According to good ol’ wiki:
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.
Etymology lessons aside, when I discovered the wonder that is homemade za’atar , I knew I had to re-invent a healthy vegan version of my beloved pastries that wouldn’t take hours on end to bake. Traditional manakeesh are made using white flour – not terrible of course but not ideal for my wholemeal inclined tastebuds. I considered making a dough base using wholewheat pastry flour – but that would still require yeasting and rising time. I had a class in 2 hours so that was clearly out of the question.
With that in mind I turned to an old reliable – socca . Chickpea flour had served as the perfect pizza base time and time again , so surely it would work here to create a healthy, protein packed AND gluten free man’ousheh (pastry).
Healthy Socca Manakeesh
Serves 1-2 (yields about 4 mini pastries)
For the socca “dough”:
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour
- 1 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour or buckwheat flour for a GF option
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Pinch of cumin powder (optional)
- Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until batter is smooth.
- Pre-heat your broiler/grill and lightly grease a pan or skillet using cooking oil of choice (I used 1 tsp coconut oil).
- Now, either pour the entire batter all at once or attempt to cook them as individual mini-soccas by adding the batter in circles of 1/4 cup increments. I tried both but ultimately my pan was too small and the batter joined up anyways.
- Bake for about 8-10 minutes until the socca has set, but is still slightly undercooked. Remove from the oven and slice into smaller pieces/circles to make mini pastries if needed.
- Bake for a further 3-5 minutes (depending on the strength of your oven) or until edges are crispy and the “pastries” are set.
For the za’atar topping:
- 1 tbsp za’atar spice mix (see recipe here or use store bought)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
Whisk together until evenly distributed. Spread on manakeesh before re-baking or when done as desired.
For a labneh/cashew cheese topping:
- 2-3 tbsp of my raw vegan labneh or cheater’s vegan labneh .
Spread on manakeesh before re-baking for a hot and creamy topping or when done as desired.
Healthy and easy and tasty pastries that come together in a snap. These are light and are perfect for breakfast or as an accompaniment for lunch.
I’ve even started making a large batch in the morning and saving some for an afternoon snack when I get back from class – warmed up in the oven for a few minutes they’re just as good as freshly baked.
Favorite savoury pastry topper?
Za’atar and labneh are great but spinach and cheese will always have my heart – I feel a recipe forthcoming.