During winter, this pastry dominates Palestinian home kitchens from the central cities and the triangle area in the north. Unlike the famous spinach fatayer, usually found in the northern cities’ markets, this pastry resembles layers of puff pastry separated with plenty of olive oil and is filled with a fragrant mixture of fresh hyssop leaves and onions. In some areas, it’s prepared with dried onions fried in olive oil while in others, as in this recipe, fresh spring onions impart a delicate freshness.
Most of the work in this recipe is the foraging of the leaves and drying them out. Be sure to pick off only the leaves and not stalks, rinse them well and dry; shake well to get rid of excess water (you can also use a salad spinner) and let dry on a towel in an even layer. If you cannot find fresh hyssop locally, fresh oregano can be substituted, but be sure to chop it as the leaves are not as delicate.
The fatayer can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
10½ oz / 300 grams fresh hyssop leaves, washed and dried thoroughly
1 bunch (about 3 cups) spring onion, thinly sliced
⅔ tablespoon fine salt
½ cup / 120 ml olive oil
Sumac or crushed red chili pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup / 240 ml olive oil, for greasing
Prepare the dough: knead all the ingredients, except for the olive oil, into a slightly sticky soft dough. Add more water or flour if necessary. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside for 10 minutes.
Pour the olive oil over the dough and knead until it is completely absorbed and the dough is smooth and homogenous. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, grease with a little olive oil, and transfer to a tray lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to its highest temperature (400–450°F / 250-300°C). If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven and preheat it. To make the za’atar mixture, roughly chop the hyssop leaves and mix in a bowl with the spring onion, salt and olive oil (add sumac or chili flakes if desired).
Grease a work surface with a little olive oil and, using your hands, stretch out a ball of dough into a circle about 10-12 inches / 25-30 cm in diameter. Generously sprinkle the za’atar mixture on top. Fold the right side of the circle towards the center. Sprinkle a little of the za’atar mixture on top and fold over the left side of the circle. Sprinkle a little of the za’atar mixture, then fold the bottom part over followed by the top part. You should end up with a dough envelope. Lightly press and let rise for 10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
Place a dough envelope on a sheet of parchment paper and roll into a large flatbread. Drizzle olive oil on top and transfer either with the parchment paper to the baking stone, or directly to the very bottom of the oven. Bake for about 8 minutes, until the flatbread is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and repeat with the remaining dough envelopes, baking one fatayer at a time.