If there is one dish I love to eat in the summer it is fatteh. The word comes from the Arabic verb fattah which means to break up and I guess the dish has this name because it is made up of layers of broken up toasted or fried pita bread topped with boiled meat and chickpeas, or steamed eggplants, or simply chickpeas and the whole covered with yogurt and garnished with toasted pine nuts, at least in the traditional Lebanese version. The Egyptian version has rice and tomato sauce while the Syrian has stuffed aubergines. All are delicious but I like the purity of the Lebanese version and I also like the simplicity of the Saudi version for which I am giving you a recipe here, albeit modernised for a more elegant presentation.
Saudi fatteh has no meat. Instead it is made with fried courgettes and aubergines and a very fresh and rather dry tomato sauce. I cut both courgettes and aubergines in thickish julienne strips and fried them — I could have brushed them in olive oil and grilled them but the fatteh wouldn’t have been as delightful so I went with the frying making sure I drained the excess oil by spreading the vegetables on several layers of kitchen paper.
I then made the sauce by caramelising the sliced onions first then sauteeing the fresh diced tomatoes with them long enough to wilt the tomatoes but not so long as to let them go mushy.
Some people fry the bread for the fatteh but I don’t like doing that as the dish becomes too oily and heavy. I prefer to toast the bread in the oven but instead of breaking it up I decided to use it whole and to layer the rest of the ingredients over it. I only had very large pita which I trimmed so that it looked nice on my plates but you can also use Turkish durum which is what I used in the top picture. Both are good but I think I prefer the durum. It is more flaky and it also makes for a prettier presentation.
You place your toasted pita or durum on each plate then divide the vegetables and sauce equally on each bread before ladling the yoghurt over the vegetables leaving some showing and making sure you don’t let the yoghurt spill out which is easier to control on the durum than on the pita because of the way the durum puffed up in the oven creating natural buffers.
For a long time I used to saute my pine nuts in butter in a pan but ever since I got my amazing Elro oven, I toast all my nuts in the oven. It takes a few minutes and they colour fairly evenly without my having to stir them all the time.
And here is what the fatteh looks like as you tuck into it. Scrumptious, refreshing and pretty healthy. What more could you want on a hot summer evening? Perhaps a glass of Chateau Musar rose!
100 g onions
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
100 g tomatoes, diced into small cubes
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
150 ml sunflower oil
300 g courgettes, cut into sticks as with French fries
150 g small eggplants, cut into sticks as with French fries
4 medium disks pita bread or 4 Turkish durum breads
500 g yoghurt
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil until golden. Add the tomato to the onion together with the pepper and salt to taste and cook until the tomatoes soften but are not completely mushy.
Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan and deep fry the zucchini, then the aubergines until golden and completely cooked. Remove onto several layers of kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt to taste.
Toast the disks of bread in a preheated oven until golden brown but without any burned bits.
Mix the yoghurt with the crushed garlic and season with salt and
Put one disk of toasted bread on a plate. Arrange twice as much zucchini as eggplant in a nice pile in the middle of the bread. Top with a quarter of the onion and tomatoes