Fatteh is an ancient dish that can be traced back to during the Abbasid Caliphate period in the 13th century. It’s popular dish  for brunch, especially in the coastal city of Tripoli in Lebanon.

Lebanese cuisine expert Joumana Accad says she considers it the signature dish of all Middle Eastern cooking, although it is not well-known in the western world:

“It’s best prepared using fresh vegetables and fruits from the market or your own garden. The word fatteh means ‘to crumble’ in Arabic and crumbling is the idea behind this dish. Bread that is somewhat stale is crumbled, fried, and layered with a variety of ingredients including a delectable yogurt sauce and some fried pine nuts. I toast the bread in this recipe to make it lighter and less fattening.

“This fatteh is an eggplant and minced lamb version. It can easily be converted to a vegetarian dish by omitting the meat and replacing it with coarsely ground walnuts. There are at least ten versions of fatteh in Lebanese cuisine: chickpea fatteh, chicken fatteh, lamb fatteh, kafta fatteh, stuffed eggplant fatteh, lamb feet fatteh, lamb tongue fatteh, etc.

“What matters is the layering. Cooked meat, or vegetable, or both, then garlicky yogurt, then crunchy pita croutons, then buttery pine nuts. The eggplant and lamb are cooked in a light tomato sauce with a strong undercurrent of sweet/sour pomegranate molasses.”

Her recipe below:

Fattet Al-Betenjane (Eggplant Casserole)

Yield: Serves 4-6

Fattet Al-Betenjane (Eggplant Casserole)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of eggplants
  • 3/4 pounds of minced lamb or beef (meat can be omitted and replaced with ground walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup of pomegranate molasses
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce (8 ounces)
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 3 pita breads
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts
  • Spices: salt, seven-spice, sumac
  • 1 teaspoon of butter or 1 teaspoon of oil
  • 3/4 pound of yogurt (full or low-fat)
  • 8 cloves of garlic (or to taste)
  • 1 generous tablespoon of tahini

Instructions

METHOD:

1. Peel the eggplants and cut in small cubes. Sprinkle generously with salt and place in a sieve over a bowl; let the salt draw out the bitter juices for several hours, if possible (you will get at least one cup of dark water).

2. Brown the minced lamb in a skillet. Break it into small pieces with two wooden spoons, add some spices. I added salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sumac and 1 teaspoon of seven-spice mix. Stir and cook until browned. Then transfer to a sieve and let the meat drain its grease.

3. Cut the pita breads with kitchen scissors into tiny croutons, place in a Ziploc bag, add a tablespoon of olive oil and toss. When the croutons are shiny, transfer to a cookie sheet lined with foil and bake in a 300F oven till dry, golden and very crunchy.

4. Dry the eggplant with paper towels. Pour two or three tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and when hot, pan-fry the eggplants, stirring from time to time until they release their flavor, get soft and browned a bit. Transfer the eggplant to the skillet with the minced meat and add 1/4 cup of pomegranate molasses and a cup of tomato sauce. Cook the mixture over medium heat for 20 minutes or so, and let the sauce reduce by one half until the remaining mixture is moist but not too soupy.

5. Melt a teaspoon of butter and one of oil (if using clarified butter, don't bother with the oil) and fry the pine nuts until caramel-colored. Drain on a paper towel.

6. Mix the yogurt with a generous tablespoon of tahini (optional, but adds a nice nutty taste) and 1/2 teaspoon of mashed garlic (mash the garlic with a dash of salt in a mortar).

ASSEMBLY:

Place the meat and eggplant mixture on a platter while still warm. Cover with the yogurt, then top with the croutons and pine nuts.

Notes

Copyright Joumana Accad

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