Now that spring has sprung and with all that sunshine we’ve been getting recently, I am starting to think of summer salads! Fattoush is my all time favourite warm weather salad, with its fresh and zingy flavours. It’s a crisp salad full of colour, with pieces of crumbled pita bread, seasoned with an olive oil, lemon juice and sumac dressing. Fattoush hails from the Levantine, which generally refers to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Egypt and Jordan. Very similar to the Italian panzanella.
What stands out in this salad is the tangy dressing and the presence of one of my favourite spices: Sumac. I was fortunate recently to receive some sample packets of spices from the guys over at Absolute Spice. I got some sumac, some peri-peri spice mix (which I’m told is one of their most popular products), some chaat masala and something I’ve never cooked with before, some dried hibiscus flower petals.
These guys supply some top chefs in London and I was looking forward to getting my hands on their spices. I shall do a complete review of their products in another post, let’s focus on the sumac today! As soon as I opened the packet, the whole kitchen took on the wonderfully tart and deep lemony fragrance of Sumac. It was extremely fresh, both in scent as well as taste, not surprising, given their high turnover rate. I figured the best way to test it out would be to use it as is, without cooking, in a salad. I was more than impressed with its strength and flavour. If you are in the UK and would like to get your hands on spices that are fresher than anything on the highstreet, click on the image below and get 10% off your first order:
There are two ways of preparing the pita bread for this recipe:
One way is to leave the pita out for a couple of days to dry, before it is then broken up into bite size pieces and added to the fattoush. I, however, prefer to just pop the pita in the toaster or place it in the oven for about 10 minutes to crisp up. I can’t leave pitas lying around, they get eaten up or thrown out into the garden for our resident squirrels!
Another way of preparing the pita is also to soak it in a lemon juice and water mix to soften, the pita is then squeezed dry before being used, providing a completely different texture. While I’ve been served fattoush this way many times, I’ve never made it with wet pitta as I rather like the crunchy addition of dried toasted pita in the salad, giving a contrast in texture.
What vegetables to use in Fattoush?
Generally, the must have vegetables in Fattoush are:
- onions/spring onions (scallions)
- some sort of salad leaves which in the Levantine region, will be purslane
Purslane is not the easiest leaf to get hold of in the UK although these days, you can but seeds for them. The easier option is to replace it with any type of green salad leaves you can find. Lambs lettuce makes a good substitute. After that, use your imagination, but keep everything in proportion, you don’t want one vegetable overpowering the others. It’s best to keep all vegetables to about the same size for easier eating as well as presentation purposes.
As an added extra, feta cheese can also be crumbled over, just before serving. And one thing that I like to do is to sprinkle the lemon zest all over just for a hint of yellow more than anything else, although the zest does profile a very subtle layer of flavour.
- 2 pita bread
- half a cucumber, peeled & chopped into 1cm cubes
- 2 tomatoes, cubed as above
- 1 large handful radishes, sliced thinly
- 2 spring onions, sliced thinly
- 1 handful lettuce (any), cut to same size as cucumbers
- 1 large handful lambs lettuce
- half a green chilli, chopped fine (optional)
- small handful mint leaves, finely chopped
- large handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 lemon (2-3 tbsp)
- 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, to taste, I prefer less for a more piquant dressing
- 1 small garlic clove
- half tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp sumac
- Cut the pita bread into strips and toast either in the toaster or in the oven at 220˚C for about 10 minutes, until just brown.
- Crumble into bite size pieces.
- Crush the garlic in a pestle or mortar with the salt. Or use your knife.
- In a small bowl, mix the garlic paste with the rest of the marinade ingredients and leave aside.
- Place all the ingredients, except for the lemon zest, in a large salad bowl and toss to mix thoroughly.
- Sprinkle the lemon zest all over and serve immediately.