These carrots are roasted to perfection, flavoured with za’atar and sumac; a combined taste of tangy sweet and yet earthy and savory. Za’atar is a spice blend that originates in Middle East countries, such as Lebanon, Israel, Jordon, Palestine and Saudi Arabia; and also popular in some north African countries such as Morocco and Tunisia. Every country has their own blend of spices. The one I have (and I use here) is from Israel, it is a blend of dried oregano, white sesame, thyme, sumac, dill and salt, it has an intense earthy flavour with a hint of licorice note. It gives a wonderful taste to almost anything, I love to sprinkle it on egg of all kinds, or rub the spice on chicken and lamb then put straight onto the grill; scatter it on homemade hummus and baked pitta bread, to say the few examples. The other spice I use here is called Sumac, it is also native to the Middle East; a red coarse powder made from ground sumac berries. It has a floral tangy taste and it is also a lovely spice that is good on most things, such as vegetables, fish, meat and even as a delicious addition to salad dressing. I totally adore these spices and I am inspired to experiment more with them. This recipe is one great example of how these beautiful spices work brilliantly with the most simplest ingredients. The flavour of this salad is in a way complex: earthy, savory, sweet, tarty and licorice-y all on one plate. The sweet and sour pomegranate dressing ties every flavour together and the mint has given the salad a refreshing touch. Overall a delightful combination of flavours and textures, so easy to make and to say the least- heavenly.
Notes: I was given a few jars of homemade pomegranate jam which were made by my friend’s grandmother of Tunisian descent. These fingers licking jam are studded with pomegranate seeds which is perfect for making salad dressing, and it is exactly what I have done: I mixed a tablespoon of the jam with lemon juice and olive oil, the tartiness of the lemon juice goes nicely with the sweetness of the jam. But pomegranate molasses will work just as well, but since molasses will be less sweet and more on a tangy side, use less lemon juice and perhaps add some agave syrup to add more sweetness. Scatter some fresh pomegranate seeds to give the salad a more crunchy texture.
- 700g carrot, peeled (or rubbed clean) and quartered lengthwise
- 1.5 tsp. Za’atar
- 1 tsp. Sumac
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Large pinch of sea salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of 1/4 lemon
- 20g shelled toasted pistachio nut, roughly chopped
- 50g Feta cheese
- Handful of fresh mint, leaves picked and finely sliced (leave a few whole for garnish)
- 2-3 heaped tbsp. of fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)
For the dressing:
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate jam (or pomegranate molasses)
- juice of 1/2 lemon (1 tbsp. of lemon juice if use molasses)
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200 degree celsius.
Combine cut carrots, spices, olive oil, and seasoning on a large baking tray, mix well and then arrange the carrots in one layer.
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and then squeeze the lemon juice on top and mixed well. Transfer the carrots to a serving platter, set aside.
To make the dressing, combine all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid on, shake a few time until the dressing is well combined. Have a taste, it should be tangy and sweet at the same time.
To assemble the salad: crumble the feta cheese on top of the carrots, then chopped pistachio nuts, fresh mint and finally the dressing and fresh pomegranate seeds (if use). Served immediately.
The salad can also be made an hour ahead.