Thursday, September 28, 2006

Shorba, Fattouch & Fatteh

Every town in Syria, as well as other Arab and Islamic countries have their own unique Ramadan Dishes. In Tartous, no Ramadan table is right without the omnipresence of 3 dishes:
Shorba (soup)
Fattouch (a salad)
Fatteh (chickpeas with sesame paste)
These are prerequisites for the Iftar of any and all families. Of course there will always be a main entrée or more in addition to the threesome above and they are always welcomed extras.



Shorba (soup): Any kind of soup will do really. We especially like the angel hair (thin spaghetti) soup with tomato sauce and meat balls. The preparation is straight forward. The ground beef is shaped like small balls and fried in butter until golden brown. Tomato sauce, water and broth are brought to a boil and then the meat added. Salt, pepper and spices are used as per preference. Once the mélange is boiling, heat is reduced to a minimum, the short thin spaghetti is added and the pot covered over low heat for an hour or so. Stirring occasionally will insure that all the ingredients are getting well mixed. Just when the cannon is fired signaling sunset and the Muezzin chants Allah Akbar (we’ll talk about the cannon and the Muezzin next time) the hot soup is brought to the table. After a refreshingly misty glass of water, drunk straight up, the soup is the first thing to lubricate the esophagus and dilate it to make it ready to receive more goods.


Fattouch: is a salad well known in the Levant region (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine). There might be some local variations in this culinary masterpiece, but this is how we do it in Tartous. I’m going to help you prepare a plate of Fattouch for four or five people. Fattouch is a mixture of parsley, portulaca (any green stuff if you can’t find it can serve as an alternative= lettuce for instance), fresh green mint, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cucumbers, radish, bread crumbs, grenadine molasses, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, Sumac (optional if you can’t find it) and finally salt & pepper.
Parsley (1 handful), portulaca (2 handfuls) and fresh green mint (1 handful) are thoroughly washed, picked (the seam removed) and soaked in salt and water during the preparation of the other ingredients.
Two tomatoes are cut in chunks the size of (see picture).
Two Cucumbers are sliced about 1/4” thick.
Radishes (1 handful) are peeled in a spiral fashion so that parts of them become white and others red (this is simply more appealing to the eye). Cut them in smaller pieces (see picture).
Pita bread crumbs are prepared in one of two ways (either fried in oil or for the more health conscious simply dry heated in the oven until light golden brown. (1 pita bread 8” diameter cut in small stamp size chunks).
One medium-sized onion, thinly sliced (see picture).
Two cloves of garlic, crushed soft.
Place the bread crumbs in the salad bowl you’re going to present on the table. In a separate bowl, mix two tablespoons of grenadine molasses (sold in most delicatessen shops in the west) with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of two medium-sized lemons, 1 tablespoon white vinegar and garlic.
Keep all the vegetables unmixed and separate until ready to serve. Remove the portulaca, parsley and fresh green mint from the salted water and then mix them along with all the veggies, place them on top of the bread and mix them well while adding the grenadine molasses/olive oil/lemon juice/vinegar/garlic dressing (the bread is to be mixed with the other ingredients). Add sumac, salt and pepper as per taste. For those who had never tried Fattouch before, give it a try and you’ll never eat salad any other way afterward.



Fatteh: is a dish of soft-boiled chickpeas, bread crumbs and a dressing made of sesame paste (Tehiné), plain salted yogurt, lemon juice and garlic all topped off with delicious melted butter with fried pine nuts. Some parsley and grenadine are sprayed for the aesthetic effect (optional).
To be completely honest, in Tartous we buy the cooked chickpeas and the dressing ready from the small popular (Fool & Hommos restaurants, see 1st picture above). If you live in the west, ready cooked chickpeas in cans are sold in many supermarkets. You would need to throw away the water in the can and boil them in fresh water and until very tender and soft. The required time depends on the pre-cooked condition they were in but they should real soft (ulmost mushy). The sesame paste (Tehiné) is also sold in specialty stores everywhere. 1/2 cup needs to be diluted with lemon juice (1 squeezed lemon) and some plain yogurt (2 full tablespoons) until it has the fluidity of paint (not thicker). Two cloves of crushed garlic are added to this dressing.


The crumbs of bread (same as in Fattouch) are placed at the bottom of the bowl. The hot chickpeas are spread evenly on top (1 12 oz can) and some, not all, of the hot water used for boiling is added. The sesame paste dressing is spread on top with the back of a spoon in a layer of roughly ½ “. Finally 1 tablespoon of hot and melted butter with some pine nuts is splashed on top with some parsley, red pepper and grenadine for decoration.


What I have just described above are the must ingredients of a Tartoussi Ramadan Iftar. Please note that these dishes are prepared out of Ramadan as well. They would, however, together meet every single day of the entire month.


If you’re fasting while reading this post, I hope I was able to tease your taste buds.
Iftar Hani (Bon Appétit).

25 comments:

Yazan said...

u remind me of Matbakh Ramadan on Syrian TV... LOL

iftar hani to you my friend, u just made my day with ur fattoush recipe..

I love Munich said...

TEASE my taste buds??? They are in total uproar now ... I'll get back to you for that!! ;)
I will try them ALL ... soup, Fattouch and Fatteh - they sound absolutely delicious!! I need to see where I can find this "grenadine molasses", "sumac" .. no idea where but "tehine", no problem.

Thanks so much for sharing Abufares ... but as I say - revenge will soon be on it's way!! ;)
Iftar hani to ALL of you!!

abufares said...

Hi Yazan

Glad I was able to bring you some memories of home.
I don't know what you're having in Japan but I hope you're having a good time and taking it easy.

abufares said...

Hi karin
I'm happy my post had the exact desired effect on you. I hope it makes all the other fasting bloggers feel the same way. It's just a first tease of others to follow hopefully.
Give us some German ideas for Iftar, how about that!

Ascribo said...

Not only teasing taste buds, but this post made me drool, here in the library!

I really miss the Tartoussi Fatteh, but it looks very difficult to get the ingridents here, not to mention my lack of the magic touch...

I hope you'll enjoy yourselves in the meantime, and please, eat Fatteh on my behalf!

abufares said...

Hi Ascribo
Iftaran Hanian
You're right about something. Fatteh needs a magic touch. I consider myself a very lucky man that Om Fares has somehow deciphered the secret code of Fatteh. It has taken a lot of patience to finally reach the exact balance of the Tehine dressing, the water content and the exact proportions. There is no formula I think. It's just trial and error until you get it exactly right. Then it's heavenly...
I promise to fix you a huge plate of Fatteh once you're back.
Fatteh in England! That ought to be a real challenge!

Shannon said...

Now I'm starving!

I'm definitely going to try the Fattouch. I've just put the ingredients on my shopping list.

Sam... said...

And why did i read this before Ifar...??!!

i should have waited,....:((

Cheers

abufares said...

Hi Shannon
Please let me me know when your Fattouch is done. How did it go? Did you like it? A picture would be nice...

abufares said...

Hi Sam
The post was written and was intended to be read before Iftar. On a full stomach, this post is almost useless.
Glad it had the desired effect:)

Torstein said...

Hmm
Thanks for the recipe. It's been saved for future reference :)

I have never had fatteh in a restaurant in Tartous, but one of the best was at the home of some friends in Yahmur, just outside Tartous. They also serve delicious fatteh at Abu Sweis and Mat'am al-Andalus in Latakia!

Bon apetit and happy Ramadan to those of you who fast.

abufares said...

Hi Torstein
Thank you for commenting.
To eat a real Tartoussi Fatteh you have to try it at home. However, there are at least a half a dozen small popular restaurants in the old city (Al-Saha & Al-Khrab) serving Fatteh & Mousabbaha (the real Tartoussi specialty). Also there's a very good place on Al-Mina St. where they make great Fatteh & Fool.
Saha Wa Hana to you.
Kol 3am Wa Anta Bi Kheir!

Amr T said...

Wallah you made me Hungry...

I need to open a fetteh restaurant here in california.

hehe

abufares said...

Hi Amr

A Fatteh restaurant in California! Why not! I think it's a great idea. Fatteh, fool, Musabahha, Hommos Na3em... It's all health food you know.
Thank you for dropping by.

Anonymous said...

Dear Abufares
I've been a friend of your blog for a while. I want to thank you for such wonderful entries. Your vivid description of Tartous and its surroundings has, indeed, created virtual Tartous; invited us in, and allowed us to breathe its unique special air.
However, I must confess that your writing style made me very curious about the education, life, and experiences you’ve had. Hence, I ask you to dedicate an entry to describe those sides.
Keep it up Abufares
Thank you again
Ali, a Syrian expat

abufares said...

Dear Ali
Thank you for your very kind comment. I never thought about writing in a direct way about myself. However, I will try my utmost to dedicate one post, as you've suggested, to discource my life briefly.
This definitely requires a clear head.
I'll try to do it as soon as I am in the right mood for such a vein undertaking.
Again, thank you.

Ingrid said...

THANK YOU! That looks absolutely delicious! Now I have to bug my husband to connect the printer to the computer so I can cut and paste to Word and print out the recipes.. hmmm..of course, it doesn't help that I am hungry right now..
Ingrid

abufares said...

Dear Ingrid
Thank you for dropping by. I took a look at your blogs and really liked what I found.
I hope the fattouch and fatteh come out alright. The fattouch is not that hard once you have the ingredients. The fatteh needs some tweaking and tuning to get it right. The key is the sesame paste (tehine) dressing. It needs to be consistent and not too thick. Lemon juice, plain yogurt even water should be used to make it right(salt as per your preference).
I would love to hear from you when you have them prepared. Pictures would be great as well.
Again thank you. I will try to post more recipes of dishes that are relatively easy to prepare and which I happen to like:)

Bridget said...

Mmm, fattoush, my favorite!

I brought home a good supply of sumac from Jordan because I'm never able to find it here.

Thanks for the recipe.

abufares said...

Hi Bridget
Thank you for dropping by. It's been a while since you've last posted on your blog. Looking forward hearing more of your adventures.

Wollime said...

Dear Abu Fares

Shukran Jazeelan for Your Blog on Shorba Fattouch & Fatteh. i was looking on the Web for a Good Recipe for Fatteh b Samne when i found your Blog. My 15 hungry Friends will be amazed tomorrow thanks to you!

Best regards from a Shami bil Ghurbe.

marmitelover said...

OOh lovely, going to try this...I was looking for a grenadine molasses recipe...

Piscean Rubble said...

Abu Fares, all of these dishes sound wonderfully delish!! The Fattouch looks amazing...I shall try it soon. Is Fatteh that different from Hummus? I love Hummus and make it all the time...just seems like there are a few extra ingredients in Fatteh...

Thanks again for showing me the way!! :) Om Anastasio

abufares said...

@Om Anastasio
Making Fattouch is simple enough and straightforward.
Making Fatteh, however, is more of an art than a science. It's a learn by trial and error process.
First It's totally different from Hummus. It's served hot and is filling by itself.
The chickpeas should be very well cooked. That is they should be boiled to the point of absolute tenderness. Even if you buy pre-cooked chickpeas you should heat them and cook them some more.
The sauce, tehina (sesame paste) is the secret. It should be well mixed with lemon juice and diluted in water (i.e. not too thick but not too thin). Some plain yogurt might be added to soften up the taste.
Follow my instructions and you should come up with something delicious.

Piscean Rubble said...

Don't think I can pull of the Fatteh. Hubby doesn't like Tahini (but loves Halva...go figure). I can make Hummus without it but clearly can't omit it from Fatteh. So I'll stick to the Fattouch!! Thank you so much, again!!