We’ve used this za’atar pesto before, stirring it into our Middle Eastern take on mac n cheese. ‘Spoon it onto a baked potato’ was once said, which is exactly what we sought out to do here, proving its wonderful versatility. We used both regular and sweet potatoes here, which are then combined in the filling. Feel free to use one over the other, if you have a preference. As always, play around with the cheeses and herbs, using whatever you might have on hand.
2 baking jacket potatoes (500g)
2 sweet potatoes (600g)
60ml olive oil
50g Greek-style yoghurt
60g spring onions, plus 2 tbsp extra sliced
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
100g Greek feta, roughly crumbled
100g lancashire cheese or mature cheddar, roughly grated
Salt and black pepper
CRISPY ONIONS (optional, or use store-bought)
500ml sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced on a mandolin (180g)
1 tbsp cornflour
1 large lemon
3 tbsp za’atar
20g coriander, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
40g pine nuts, lightly toasted
90ml olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. Place the potatoes onto a medium, parchment lined baking tray and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Bake for 50 minutes, turning them over halfway, or until cooked through the centre and nicely browned on the outside. Remove from the oven then turn the heat up to 220C.
3. Once cool enough to handle but still warm, use a small knife to make a slit down the centre stopping short about 1½ centimetres from the ends. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the insides, leaving about ½ centimetre of flesh attached to the skins (careful to not tear the skins). Add both the sweet and regular potato flesh to a large bowl then add the yoghurt, spring onions, cumin, chilli, oregano, both cheeses, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper and mix everything together to combine, mashing the potato slightly with the back of the spoon. Spoon the mixture back into the skins then drizzle the top with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Return to the oven for 20 minutes more, until nicely browned on top. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, if making from scratch, fry the onions. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium, high-sided saute pan on a medium high heat. Just before frying, toss the onion together with the cornflour in a bowl. Test the oil is hot enough by adding an onion ring to the oil; it should sizzle immediately. In two batches, fry for about 5 minutes per batch, using a slotted spoon to move it around a little, until nicely golden. Transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Once cool, strain the sunflower oil into a heat proof container, discarding the solids, and reserve it for another use.
5. Make the pesto. Finely grate the lemon to give you 1½ teaspoons of zest. Then, top and tail the lemon and use a small sharp knife to cut away at the skin and pith. Segment the lemon by sliding your knife between the membranes to release the segments. Roughly chop the segments then place into a serving bowl with the lemon zest and set aside. Add the za’atar, coriander, garlic, pine nuts, 1/8th teaspoon of salt, a good grind of pepper and 2 tablespoons of oil to a food processor and pulse a few times until you have a coarse paste. Add to the lemon bowl and stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil.
6. To serve, divide the potatoes between four plates and spoon over some of the pesto. Sprinkle with the crispy onion and extra spring onion, serving the extra pesto and crispy onions in separate bowls alongside.