During the summer, farmers in the region used to spend most of their time in the orchards or fields picking and harvesting their crops. The heavy workload and the long distance from home meant cooking was kept to a minimum. Instead, they consumed foods that could be carried and eaten in the field like fruit, bread, and jibneh cheese. “I took these three ingredients and combined them into one dish,” says chef Muzna Bishara. Her contemporary take on the farmers’ summertime snack is topped with watercress leaves for a refreshing crunch.
Read more about figs in the local arab culture on Muzna’s Column.
- For the dough:
- 1 ½ cups / 350 ml lukewarm water
- 0.4 ounces / 12 grams fresh yeast (or 0.15 ounces / 4 grams dry yeast)
- 1.1 pound / 500 grams flour (preferably bread flour)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil + for greasing
- For the Topping:
- 3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (look for one with no sugar added)
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges
- 5 firm ripe figs
- 1 tablespoon high-quality za’atar spice mix mixed with 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 7 ounces / 200 grams jibneh or feta cheese, or more, to taste
- A generous handful of greens, preferably watercress
- For baking:
- 5 tablespoons durum wheat semolina
- Prepare the dough: mix the water and yeast in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook for about 1 minute. Add the flour, increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes. Add the salt and knead for 5 minutes. Add the oil and knead for 2 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a bowl greased with olive oil, cover with a towel and let rise until it doubles in volume, about 45 minutes. If you are making 3 medium-sized manakish: divide the dough into 3 balls, place each in a greased bowl and let rise separately. You can also make one large manakish.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C.
- Prepare the topping: Combine the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, salt, and black pepper. Place the onion wedges in a small oven-proof pan and pour 2 tablespoons of the sauce over them. Roast in the oven until the onions caramelize, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Cut the figs in half or quarters, place in a bowl, pour the remaining sauce on top and mix well.
- Increase the temperature of the oven to the maximum, and if possible, place a baking stone on a bottom rack.
- Sprinkle semolina on parchment paper. With generously greased hands, ‘open’ the dough with your hands into a disc 1-2 cm thick, the size of the oven pan (10-13 inches), and carefully transfer to the parchment paper. Using your fingertips, make dimples in the dough and brush the za’atar-oil mixture on top. Transfer the parchment paper with the manakish to the baking stone or directly on the bottom rack of the oven and bake 3-4 minutes.
- Remove from the oven carefully and arrange the figs and caramelized onions on top evenly. Return to the oven for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the figs are lightly charred.
- Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle crumbled cheese and watercress on top and serve.