I made an intriguing discovery at the market on Saturday: my main butcher had little pots of something called za'atar. This turned out to be a mix of a very intensive thyme, sesame seeds and olive oil, and had been produced by Palestinian farmers in Galilee.
Out of a combination of curiosity and international solidarity, I bought a pot.
As it happens, Saturday was unusual in that I'd headed for the Broadway Market without any really clear idea of what I was going to cook over the weekend. I had been half wondering about buying some mutton – it's enjoying a revival and my butcher had had some a couple of weeks earlier. He's not having it every week, so I wasn't sure whether Saturday would be a mutton day or not.
As it happens, it wasn't. Musing over what to do, I spotted a pork tenderloin and picked that. It struck me almost the moment that I spotted the za'atar that it looked like the kind of thing you could cover a piece of meat in to form a crust. And although it's often used as a dip for bread – take your flat bread, dip it in olive oil and then in the za'atar – it worked perfectly well on the pork.
That part of the shopping having been done, I headed on. I really didn't feel in a fish mood – but equally I didn't want anything complex or fancy. In the end, I opted for black pudding, and turned it into something like a me version of 'himmel und erde' ('heaven and earth'), with sliced apple friend in butter and mashed potato and parsnip, moistened with the butter from cooking the apple, plus some sautéd leek on the side. And jolly nice it was too.
But so to Sunday and the pork.
Although it contains olive oil, the za'atar wasn't very 'wet'. So I drizzled a little oil over the meat, then coated it in the thyme-sesame mix and left it in the fridge to marinade for a couple of hours. Later, I roasted it for around an hour.
It worked very well – and I served it with sweet potato and shallots, roasted in orange juice, honey and olive oil, together with shredded savoy cabbage, sautéed with smashed garlic. And to follow, the first rhubarb syllabub of the year.
All in all, not bad for a very rare trip to market without a proper list! And I'll certainly use the za'atar again – indeed, I really fancy trying it as a bread dip now.