I’ras Zataar

‘Yahktee!’ Otis yells for the fourth time at the top of his voice.  He has taken to calling my Mama  Yakhtee (Arabic colloquial for ‘my sister’) after he heard her using the term for me one day at the supermarket.  It always makes us giggle.  It also makes me smile with pride as out of about 50 words he can now say, it is one of only about five Arabic words he says.  I always just took it for granted that my children would be bi-lingual like I am, but it’s actually harder than I thought to keep the Arabic dominant here in Buckinghamshire.  It’s just another way in which my heritage seems to be slipping away from me.  Being away from Palestine, I feel like the main thing I can hand down to my son is our stories, our food and our language.   It feels so important to me.

This week is World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel.  The theme this year is Youth and Children: Raising Hope and Making Change.  I may feel sad that Otis may not feel Palestinian when he grows up, but he has so much privilege that many other young Palestinians don’t have.  Unemployment is high and rising for young Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and also within Israel.  The occupation, blockade, discrimination and regular violence continue to strip the young of their opportunities, their security and their hopes for the future, which is taking its toll on mental health and positivity.    When I think of hope, I think of young Palestinians -with all their compassion, creativity and talent- demanding their rights, resisting their oppression and being heard and counted.  I believe in that movement and hope that Otis will one day be a part of it.

As well as WWPPI, Otis also turns two this week and I hope that as he grows up, he learns a lot more Arabic and he grows to love his Palestinian heritage.

These soft white rolls with Zataar are certainly proof that Otis is taking to his Palestinian roots well, and he certainly enjoys making them as much as he does eating them.  And for now, his five words will just have to do.



550g plain flour

2 teaspoons quick yeast

½ tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

25g butter

375ml milk

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oilk

1 large handful dried baladi thyme



1 dash of milk

1 beaten egg

1 tablespoon of Zataar

sun buns


  • Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl
  • Heat the milk and butter on the hob untel warm and melting then add to the flour and mix with a spoon to a rough dough, then knead
  • Add olive oil and baladi thyme and continue to knead into a silky dough.
  • Leave dough to rise in a greased bowl in a warm place for one hour
  • Once doubles in size, punch the air out of the dough and shape ad desired on a floured surface. I make small balls and plaits usually.
  • Place on a greased or lined baking sheet and cover with a tea towel for 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200c and make the wash with the beaten egg, salt and milk mix together
  • Once risen, brush all the dough with the wash and add brush every other bun with the zataar
  • Put in the oven for 15 minutes
  • Eat warm with soup, yoghurt and oil



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