Having grown up in a Lebanese-influenced home, I adore za’atar and happily eat it with pretty much anything. If you’re not familiar with za’atar, it’s a classic Middle-Eastern spice (now far more known in the UK, thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi’s fabulous recipes) and is a blend of dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac, toasted sesame seeds and salt.
I discovered recently that it pairs really well with grated carrot and nicely counters the sweetness of the carrots.
I started making this salad a couple of months back when I was finding I wasn’t really using up the carrots in my veg box. Inspired by my sister, who often makes lovely carrot salads, I pulled out my grater one day and improvised with what I had on my spice shelf. My Mum would tend to pair grated carrots with caraway seeds but I’d run out of those so I opted for cumin seeds instead and then threw on some za’atar for good measure. The resulting salad was so yummy that I’ve been making it every week since.
If you don’t tend to use cumin seeds, they’re definitely worth adding to your spice rack as they add a lot of punch to food and also pack in some impressive health benefits: they increase antioxidant intake, improve digestion, provide iron, may improve blood sugar control and may reduce food-borne illnesses.
This recipe is so simple that it barely counts as a recipe: it’s just thrown together. This is my go-to way of cooking – I’m not really one for measuring things. My Mum, as far as I’m aware, has never followed a recipe or owned a cookery book but, back in her heyday, was an amazing cook.
Apart from being super-tasty and easy-peasy to make, this salad is a good way to get a dose of orange foods. If you’re interested in learning about the subtle effects on our system of eating different coloured foods, you can read more about it here or listen to my chat with the wonderful Dr Deanna Minich here.
The vibrantly bright orange looks really pretty on the table. As you’ll see in the photo, I serve it in a cheery bowl, which I made recently at ceramics class. I chose blue because I learned from Deanna that we also benefit from the colour of the dishes and plates we eat from. Blue/purple veg and fruit are not as common as other colours, so this is an alternative way to benefit from blue. It’s a very wonky bowl…but who cares about perfect? I enjoyed making it – and it makes me happy to look at it and eat from it.
Here’s how to make Middle-Eastern spiced carrot salad:
- Simply grate a couple of carrots (or more if they’re only small ones).
- For the dressing: mix one part apple cider vinegar to three parts extra virgin olive oil and add salt to taste. I always use Himalayan pink salt.
- Toss the grated carrots in the dressing and add in around a tablespoon of cumin seeds.
- Top it with a good shake of za’atar.
NB. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days.