Seasonal food for free: Sephardic Nettle Omelette with Jerusalem Bagels & Za'atar

Carl Legge
Monday, 23rd May 2011

Carl Legge takes a traditional middle eastern recipe and gives it a foraged twist by using a family favourite: nettles.

There's a great tradition in the middle east of using eggs to make baked 'omelettes'. They are often also called 'eggeh' or 'kookoo'. Sephardic Jews are thought to originate from the Iberian Peninsula. So there may be a link between this omelette and the Spanish Tortilla. This recipe is based on one I found in Arto der Haroutinian's book Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East.

Jerusalem bagels are not the usual bagels you'd see in the supermarket or bakery. These are long, oval and you don't need to boil or steam them first, making them very simple to prepare yet just as gorgeous.

Za'atar is a traditional coarse middle eastern spice mix. It has many variations depending on culture, geography and herb availability with numerous different names & spellings. The basic blend uses sumac, roasted sesame seeds and dried thyme. There are lots of possible additions: dried oregano, savoury, hyssop; ground coriander or cumin; and other ingredients such as roasted and ground chickpeas or walnuts.

It's useful as a general seasoning with salads, fish & meat and often eaten with appetisers or at breakfast. The simplest way of serving it it with bread & olive oil: dip the bread in olive oil then in some za'atar and eat. Delicious!

So to follow is a three part recipe. You could make all of them as a surprisingly filling meal. If you fancied something a little bit smaller, any of the elements could be used as a mezze or appetiser, alternatively you could use them to accompany other dishes.

Sephardic Omelette with Nettles


Unsalted butter 25g
A small onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, crushed & finely chopped
125g mushrooms cleaned & sliced, or (best) 50g dried porcini mushrooms soaked in warm water and squeezed dry
4 free range eggs
60ml milk
150g young nettle tops, washed, dried and chopped coarsly
150g grated or crumbled cheese. (I used feta, but substitute the veggy cheese of your choice)
Fresh parsley & chives, small handful of each, finely chopped
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste




Pre heat your oven to 190ºC

You'll need a lightly buttered casserole dish about 25cm in diameter.

Melt the butter in a deep frying pan or wok.

Saute the onion and garlic on a medium heat until the onion just takes on some colour at the edges.

Add the mushrooms. You may need to add more butter or some olive oil if you use fresh. Saute until just tender but before they give up juice.

Add the nettles, stir frequently and allow just to wilt.

Put to one side and allow to cool a little.

In a bowl add the eggs and milk and beat gently. Add the remaining ingredients and onion/mushroom/nettle mixture. Mix gently and pour into your casserole dish.

Put in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes unti golden on top.



2 tbsp sesame seeds gently roasted in a dry pan
1tbsp ground sumac
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp sea salt.


In a mortar and pestle grind together the herbs and sumac. Then mix in the sesame seeds. Simple.

Jerusalem Bagels


I feed three in my house, so this recipe makes three. For four bagels, just increasethe flour and water to 400g/225g. I have a big oven and couldn't bake all four at once. If you're like me, you'll need to bake them in two batches or use a second oven if you have one.


300g strong white bread flour
1 sachet of fast action yeast or 10g dried yeast
20g sugar
30 ml oil
5g salt
160g warm water
30g milk

1 egg
Sesame seeds



If you are using dried yeast dissolve the ugar in the warm water in a jug. Sprinkle on the yeast and whisk gently. Allow to reactivate for 15 minutes or so until starting to froth.

Then add your frothy mix to the rest of the ingredients except the egg & sesame seeds and mix well.

If you are using fast action yeast just mix together the first seven ingredients.

Leave for 10 minutes and then knead lightly for 10 seconds.

Leave another 10 minutes and then knead lightly for 10 seconds.

Leave another 10 minutes and then knead lightly for 10 seconds.

Leave in a warm place for 30 minutes and then pat out to a rectangle. fold the top third down and the bottom third up over it, like an envelope. Press down edges to seal. Turn through 90 degrees and do the same fold again. Leave in a warm place.

In another 30 minutes do the same folding process and leave for 30 minutes more in a warm place .

Take your dough and cut it into three. Using your hands roll them into rough balls and then flatten each into an oval shape about 20cms on the long dimension.

Make a cut in the centre or put your thumb through so that you can get your fingers through the hole in the middle. Gently roll & massage each ball so that it forms a big dough 'O'. Put this on a greased & floured baking tray or on baking paper on a tray. Make each one of the three in this way and put side-by-side. It's going to rise so leave round th bagels and in the middle. (if you're doing four bagels you may need to do two batches. Set out 2 x 2 on baking paper. Cover with oiled cling film or similar and put ina warm place.

Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC.

Leave the bagels until about doubled in size.

(If you are doing 4 bagels, once they've risen, pop two in the fridge now to slow down their rise. Take them out when the other bagels finish, they may need a tad longer baking)

Lightly beat your egg in a bowl and get a pastry brush ready. Uncover your risen bagels and paint generously with the egg. Sprinkle sesame seeds liberally on top to make a good covering .

Pop the bagels into the over and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and firm. Take out and allow to cool a bit on a cooling rack before tucking in.

Putting it all together

Slice your omelette into attractive portions. Serve with a bagel and some za'atar spice & olive oil. A nice simple side salad would go well, although, as I say, this is a very filling meal all by itself. 

Carl Legge lives on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales on a permaculture smallholding and writes a regular blog full of delicious recipes and more. He is currently writing The Permaculture Kitchen, a book of seasonal, local, home-grown delicious recipes for Permanent Publications, the book publishing arm of Permaculture magazine. 

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