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Lebanese Flatbread with Red Pepper Paste Topping
(Man’oushe bi Fleifleh)
suggested by Nancy Bou Ayash
UW Department of English
This recipe is for a traditional Lebanese flatbread typically served for breakfast, the man’oushe (plural mana’eesh). Derived from the Arabic verb na’sh, which refers to the way a baker’s fingertips “engrave” the dough, the man’oushe, as a staple Lebanese street food, is indeed engraved upon our Lebanese collective memory. The man’oushe is a relatively simple, inexpensive but very delicious dish. It is available almost everywhere you go in Lebanon from the poorest to the most affluent neighborhoods. While the man’oushe comes with diverse toppings from meat, to zaatar to spinach to cheese, I have chosen for this recipe one of my favorite toppings, red pepper paste. This particular topping brings back many fond memories of helping my mother during the last few summer months with a lengthy process of making its two key ingredients: a home-made kishk mixture and paprika from homegrown peppers or fleifleh in Arabic. The best treat when I was living in Lebanon was waking up on Sunday mornings to the aroma of my mother’s freshly baked, warm mana'eesh bi fleifleh.
Yields 8-9 medium flatbreads
- 2 cups all-purpose four
- 1 cup whole wheat
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons powdered milk
- 1 heaping tablespoon active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 red bell pepper (grated)
- 1 chopped ripe tomato
- 1 finely chopped white onion
- 1 tablespoon labneh
- 2 tablespoons mild paprika
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons kishk (a fermented mixture of yoghurt and bulgur wheat, which is sun-dried and then ground into a powder. In the US, it is available for purchase online or in Mediterranean grocery stores.)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Preparing the dough:
- Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup warm water. Place in a warm place to proof.
- Place both flours in a large bowl and mix well with a whisk. You can also place in a standing mixer and mix with the dough hook.
- Add the oil in the middle of the mound of flour. Mix with either your fingertips or a dough hook or through the feed tube. Add the proofed yeast and gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup of warm water. Knead for a few minutes until a sticky ball of dough forms.
- Remove the dough from the bowl or mixer and place on a lightly floured surface.
- Sprinkle the dough with a couple tablespoons of flour and knead, adding more flour, until the dough is smooth and does not stick. This will take 2 to 5 minutes.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm place.
Preparing the Red Pepper Mixture:
- Place the red pepper, tomatoes, onions, labneh, paprika, and salt in a medium bowl and mix together until fully combined.
- Add the kishk and then mix.
- Finally, add the olive oil, chopped walnuts, and sesame seeds and mix well.
Making the Man’oushe:
- Place the dough into the floured counter and cut it into 8 or 9 small pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.
- Form the man’oushe, one at a time, by using a rolling pin and your fingers all around. Leave the remaining balls aside, covered in a moist towel.
- When formed, transfer to a paddle or a wooden board sprinkled with cornmeal (or flour) or a metal cookie sheet.
- Spread the red pepper mixture on the mana’eesh, using the back of a spoon and spreading about 1/3 cup of it per man’oushe.
- Let the formed man’oushe rest on the paddle or baking tray for 15 minutes or so.
- Bake for 7-8 minutes or so. I bake these mana’eesh using a dome-shaped Lebanese saj, but they can also be baked on the grill or in the oven. If using an oven, heat up it to at least 500F.
- Remove the mana’eesh promptly from the grill/oven/saj when they are golden and crisp around the edges and bubbles have appeared throughout.
- Let them cool for a few minutes before serving.
Red pepper mana’eesh are typically served with fresh herbs and vegetables like mint, cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, and black olives while sipping green or black tea.
Bon Appetite! Or as we say in Arabic, Sahtein!