Gitto’s Damascus chicken wings

We went on holiday to Syria in March, before the country fell apart more or less, and felt very lucky that we got to visit before everything took a turn for the worst, but you also feel a bit guilty for it. We got to experience the lovely country and then just left and went back home, and didn’t have to deal with what came next.

It is terrible what is happening in the Middle East and I certainly don’t want to belittle all that. But. I did fall in love with the country and especially its food, and that is why I want to share this great recipe with you.

The most wonderful spice blend I got to taste in Syria was za’atar that is very popular all over the Middle East. It is a spice blend consisting of thyme and sesame seeds mainly, and as all other blends it can taste very different depending on the specific ratios. The one we tried and bought from a whole saler in Damascus was just fabulous and something I really treasure since we got back.

And when I saw that a Swedish food blogger had come up with chicken wings with za’atar I just couldn’t resist trying it.

It was very unusual, I bet you, just like me, think of chicken wings and chilli sauce, not za’atar. But this was new and fresh and together with a lovely feta dip this was a great weekday treat.

The original recipe is in Swedish only, so my translation follow below:

Damscus chicken wings, serves 2

400 g chicken wings

70 g or so of ciftlik paneer (or proper feta)

100 ml milk

a few mint leaves

100 ml za’atar

100 ml olive oil

vegetable oil for deep-frying

1/2 cucumber

Turn the oven on 75C. Split the chicken wings by the joint. Place in a colander. Pour a litre of boiling water over the wings and then place them on a wire rack with a baking tray underneath. Let them crisp up in the oven for 40 minutes.

Mix cheese and milk and add the mint. Mix za’atar and olive oil in a bowl. Cut the cucumber into batons. Deep-fry the chicken wings in 180C oil until nice and golden, for about 6-7 minutes. Fry in batches and place on kitchen towel. Mix the chicken wings with the za’atar mixture and dig in.

Bacon-wrapped pork patties with za’atar

As you might recall, we went to Syria on holiday before all hell broke loose over there, in March. And I still found myself so grateful for the experience. Especially the food experience, of course. Like za’atar, and especially the great blend we managed to get our hands on thanks to the food tour that showed us this spice wholesaler in Damascus. They had three different blends of za’atar, they were all really nice and we had trouble choosing. But then they pulled out another blend; a mixture of the three blends according to an old secret recipe and the result was amazing.

I deeply treasure that bag or Syrian gold, and I don’t want to waste it, but I don’t want it to sit in my cupboard either, so once in a while I get the bag out and cook with it.

This is a very simple weekday recipe made so much more interesting with the za’atar, and the sesame thyme blend works really well on pork. It was utterly delicous! I served it with potato wedges and some halloumi that joined the potatoes for 5-10 mins in the oven and some asparagus. Simple and lovely.

Baconlindade fläskfärsbiffar med za’atar, 3 portioner

500 g pork mince

1 egg

100 ml breadcrumbs

1 tbsp za’atar

a pinch of salt

white pepper

1 packet streaky bacon

Mix all the ingredients apart from the meat in a bowl. Let it swell for a few minutes. Add the mince and mix thoroughly with a wooden fork. Shape to patties and wrap in bacon. Fry until golden on both sides in a frying pan, then transfer to the oven until cooked through. Serve with potato wedges, halloumi and asparagus, and maybe a nice cold sauce.