Man’oushé: Inside the Lebanese Street Corner Bakery, written by Barbara Abdeni Massaad, highlights the versatility and variety of Lebanon’s national pie, the Man’oushé, with over 70 recipes. Toppings include the traditional Man’oushé bi-za’tar (Wild Thyme Pie), Shankleesh (Spiced Cheese Pie), Flayfleh harra (Spicy Red Pepper Pie), Khobz bi-sumsum (Sesame Seed Bread), and Lahm bi-‘ajeen Halabi (Aleppo Meat Pie), along with the recipe I am featuring today: Bayd wa Khodra (Egg Pie with Vegetables).
Barbara Abdeni Massaad immigrated to the United States from Lebanon when she was 10 years old and returned in 1988. She now lives in Beirut with her husband and three children where she works as a food writer, TV host, cookbook author, and regular contributor to cooking magazines. Her career in cooking began by helping in her father’s Florida restaurant, Kebabs & Things, when she was 15. She continued to train with several renowned chefs in Lebanese, Italian, and French restaurants. She is a founding member of Slow Food Beirut and her cookbook, Mouneh: Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry, won the Gourmand Cookbook Award and the International Academy of Gastronomy Award.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Interlink Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
The chapters are divided according to ingredient: Introduction; Life’s Journey; Ingredients & Cooking Tools; The Basics; Wild Thyme; Cheese; Dried Yogurt and Bulgar; Turnovers; Vegetarian; Egg; Chicken; Meat Preserve; Meat; Ground Meat, Onion, and Parsley; Armenian Sausage; and Sweet.
Massaad begins with her life story and an introduction to the Man’oushé, a Lebanese flatbread often served for breakfast. While researching for the book, she traveled through Lebanon from north to south and shares stories from the people she met along the way, including the history of the forn, the Lebanese street corner bakery.
For those new to Lebanese cooking and baking, there is a guide to Lebanese ingredients, kitchen tools, and cooking methods. Three types of bread bases: Al-‘ajeen (basic dough), Khobz ‘Arabi (Arabic bread), and Khobz Marquq (paper-thin bread) are used to prepare the remainder of the recipes.
The passion for bread shines throughout the book. I personally love the quote on the first page by Gibran Khalil Gibran: “If you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half a man’s hunger.” I also loved how Massaad would tell her children that the dough needs to sleep before playing with it. I say the exact same thing to my children and now Evan will tell the often impatient Claire to come back later since the dough is napping.
The photography is provided by Barbara Abdeni Massaad and Raymond Yazbeck. The book is filled with gorgeous photos of people, scenery, and bakeries. Most of the recipes are accompanied by a quarter to full page photo, generally of the finished dish. There are also a few step-by-step photos to help with the formation of the bread. The names of the recipes are written in English and Arabic (romanized and Arabic script). Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric. Every dish has a headnote with background information, personal stories, tips, and variations.
This book is a great pick for bakers who want to learn more about Lebanese cuisine or are looking for new ways to work with flatbread. The sole focus is on the Man’oushé with a mixture of vegetarian, meat-based, and sweet toppings. Overall, the recipes are well-written and easy to follow though I baked all of the pies in the oven and generally did have to add a couple of minutes or so to the times provided (I also recently moved and am working with a new oven). Many of the ingredients can be located in the average American grocery store, though a few many require a Middle Eastern market such as certain cheeses, za’tar, sumac, sour pomegranate syrup, seven spice, sujuk, and mahlab.
Bayd wa Khodra is a pie topped with a savory mixture of beaten eggs, onion, tomato, mint, and parsley. A little cinnamon, salt, and pepper are added for some extra spice. My garden is finally starting to expand and this was a great way to trim back the mint and parsley. While most of the other pies in the book are completely flat, this one uses raised edges to keep the eggs from spilling out. Massaad mentions that it is an entire meal wrapped into one. She also includes recipes for a basic egg pie and an egg pie with cheese if you don’t want the additional vegetables and herbs.
I baked the pies in the oven, but they can also be prepared on a cast-iron crepe pan, griddle, or convex disc (saj).
For another variation, add half of a finely chopped green bell pepper in place of the mint leaves.
I also made Fatayer bi-sele’ (Swiss Chard Turnovers), Za’tar akhdar (Fresh Thyme Pie), Ribb al-haar (Red Pepper Paste), and Arisheh wa’asal (Whey Cheese Pie with Honey).
The Fatayer bi-sele’ (Swiss Chard Turnovers) can be formed into large or bite-sized enclosed pies. We opted for larger ones packed with a wonderfully spiced swiss chard filling with onion, tomato, sumac, lemon, and olive oil. I baked them, but instructions were also given for cooking on the stove. For a little variation, crushed walnuts, raisins, or pine nuts can also be added.
The Za’tar Akhdar (Fresh Thyme Pie) can be formed into a flat pie or turnovers. The bread is topped with a mixture of tomato, onion, peppers, and fresh thyme leaves tossed in lemon juice and olive oil. The one was Claire’s favorite.
I have come across Red Pepper Paste a few times in Lebanese, Syrian, and Turkish recipes, but can’t always find it. It is actually quite easy to make at home with a combination of processed hot and sweet red peppers. It also stores well in the refrigerator with a layer of olive oil on top. Another bonus of making your own is being able to control the spice level.
Maassaad also includes a few sweet toppings such as the Arisheh wa’asal (Whey Cheese Pie with Honey). The basic dough is flattened and topped with arisheh whey cheese and drizzled with honey. I was unable to locate arisheh, so I substituted with ricotta.
Bayd wa Khodra (Lebanese Egg Pie with Vegetables)
Excerpt from Man’oushé
2 1/2 cups (13 ounces/360 grams) of white bread (strong) flour
1 cup (5 ounces/150 grams) of cake flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) of lukewarm water, 105-115 degrees F
2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
8 large eggs (2 for each pie), at room temperature
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
To make the dough: Measure the flours.
Dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside for a couple of minutes. Sift flour and salt together into a bowl and stir in the sugar (it is important to mix the dry ingredients first).
Gradually pour the yeast water and the oil into the dry ingredients and mix.
Knead the mixture to make soft dough.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. (If you are using a food processor or stand mixer, add the dry ingredients first, then gradually add the liquids. Start at a low speed, and gradually turn up the speed, running the machine for 1 minute. Always stand close to the machine while it is running).
Place the dough into a large bowl dusted with extra flour or greased with olive oil (this will prevent the dough from sticking to the surface of the bowl). Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and leave to rise in a warm place, free of drafts, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. I usually place my dough in an unheated oven to rise.
Punch down the dough. On a floured surface, form the dough into a log. Pinch off the dough to form 4 equal-sized balls (unless otherwise specified in the pie recipe). Flour or grease the bowl again and leave to rise for an additional half-hour.
Flatten each ball with your palm.
Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough into a disc of about 10 in (25 cm) and a thickness of 1/4 in (6 mm).
If you are using a conventional oven, spread the circles onto a baking or crisping pan or place your baking stone on the bottom shelf of the oven before preheating.
To make the topping: In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the onion, tomatoes, mint, parsley, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and vegetable oil, and mix well.
Using your fingertips, raise the edges of the dough slightly to prevent the eggs from running.
If you are using a cast-iron crepe pan, griddle, or convex disc (saj), preheat over high heat. Heat the dough until small bubbles form; then lower the heat and very carefully ladle in the egg mixture. Cook until the eggs have set and the edges are crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the heat source. Lightly spray the cooking surface with water between pies, and wipe away any debris.
If you are using a conventional oven, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C/Gas mark 6). Carefully ladle in the egg mixture and bake the pies for 7 to 10 minutes on the bottom shelf until the eggs are cooked and the edges are slightly golden, watching carefully so they don’t burn.
Serve the pies hot.