Fattet al-betenjane (eggplant casserole)

March 22, 2011  • 

 

I am surprised that this dish (and its many variations) is not more popular in the US and abroad; I consider it the signature dish of all Middle-Eastern cooking. It apparently goes back centuries to the Abbassid period.

Well, never mind, today I am presenting fatteh, in the eggplant and minced lamb version. Fatteh is a very forgiving dish, omitting  or adding something is not going to affect the end result.


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.

It usually is a bit on the rich side, so I have tried to lighten it up somewhat; instead of frying the pita croutons, I tossed them in a bag with a tablespoon of olive oil and toasted them in the oven till golden-brown and crunchy. The pine nuts have to be fried in butter (preferably clarified) so I only used a teaspoon of butter. (Frying brings out the flavor of the pine nuts). As for the rest, instead of frying the eggplant cubes in gallons of oil, I tossed them in olive oil and pan-fried them. Drained the minced lamb. (I am trying).

Usually people place the croutons first; since I like them to stay crunchy I placed them on top of the yogurt. Do it your way!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound of eggplants
  • 3/4 pounds of minced lamb (or beef)
  • 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, 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

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

Comments

39 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Louise says:

    I need this dish so badly Joumana. I can’t even begin to tell you. I was just telling Marion how much I miss the Middle Eastern restaurant I often went to on Long Island. If it has eggplant, lamb and yogurt any which way, it’s fine with me!!!

    Seriously, write me a cookbook will ya??? Your recipes and instructions are astounding!!!

  2. anh@anhsfoodblog.com says:

    this is one of my favorite dishes!! tasty!

  3. Katie@Cozydelicious says:

    This looks fantastic! I love all of the different textures, it seems like such a satisfying and flavorful meal. Yum!

  4. Ellie (Almost Bourdain) says:

    I am a big fan of eggplants. It’s lovely to find new recipes for eggplant. Thanks for sharing.

  5. domi says:

    Bonjour Joumana, ce plat est fabuleux avec ce visuel qui lui donne son apparence d’ une délicieuse pâtisserie. C’est fou comme avec peu de chose et un peu de talent on arrive à faire. Je suis fan de ce genre de réalisation qui en plus d’ être agréable à regardée renferme un trésor de saveurs et de textures. Bisous et passe une bonne journée

  6. Christine @ Fresh says:

    Where to begin? This looks so good! I love the spices added, and the different textures from the eggplant, lamb and nuts. So good!

  7. Rosa says:

    Delicious looking! My kind of dish. I can’t wait to buy the first eggplants of the year…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  8. Nancy Harmon Jenkins says:

    This is indeed a fabulous dish, Joumana. I’ve published a couple of recipes for it but no one ever pays attention. Maybe it’s the name–fatty???? Seriously, I’ve often wondered about the significance of all these different layered dishes in the cuisines of the Eastern Med–mousaka, fattet, maqloubeh, et al. Obviously it’s a way to conserve fuel, by baking everything together in one dish, but I wonder if there’s something else behind it.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  9. JourneyKitchen says:

    Joumana – this is what I have been reading from most of my Lebanese friend layering. I recently did a fatteh hummus post if you remember and I didn’t bother with the layering and that’s also how my fav place out here serves it. All mixed up.And that’s how I make it at home. I make the eggplant version doing this layering and throw some roast chicken on top. I guess there are countless variations of this? And yours look heavenly yum!

  10. Miriam says:

    It sounds delicious indeed… I wish I could find pomegranate molasses and sumac here…

  11. Priya says:

    QUite a new dish for me, looks fabulous..

  12. MyLittleExpatKitchen says:

    Joumana, this is a beautiful dish. Layering eggplants and minced lamb and yoghurt… what else can one need? I’m surprised too that this isn’t a more popular dish as you say. I will give it a try!
    Magda

  13. AstraLibris says:

    Oh my goodness, I am so excited about this dish beyond words… I suppose I’ve never learned of it before since my father is a vegetarian… I must tease him for keeping this dish from me, and I must fix this dish this weekend, if not sooner!!!! 🙂 Thank you so much!

  14. Sonia says:

    beuatiful and flavourful dish!

  15. FOODESSA says:

    This dish may just become one of the added weekend lunches for Hubby and I. The layering of some of our favourite ingredients have snuggled very well in your delightful meal.
    Book marked along with a few more I borrowed from you Joumana ;o)

    Have a fabulous week and flavourful wishes ;o)
    Claudia

  16. Caffettiera says:

    Fatteh! I love it with chickpeas, but this version might easily win over it. I still have not decided whether I prefer the pita croutons to stay crunchy on to soak up the juices… it is really difficult to decide.

  17. Chiara says:

    I love reading your blog… every day I learn something new and that always makes me happy —especially when is something new about ethnic cuisines!

  18. doggybloggy says:

    I have an off topic question: I see this guy on facebook constantly referring to Beirut as Beyrouth – is this common?

    • Joumana says:

      @doggybloggy: Beyrouth is the French spelling of Beirut. Since a lot of people in Beirut are educated in French schools the spelling sticks.

      @Devaki: you can use goat meat if you like on fatteh, although it is not traditional. The seven-spice mix is sold in all middle-eastern stores or you can make your own. I will post on this now that I think about it~ 🙂

  19. Devaki says:

    This is wonderful and I am going to fix this when my Mom-in-law is visitng in May. How can I resist eggplant and meat Joumana? 🙂

    BTW should I use goat meat instead? And will I find the 7-spice in the middle eastern store?

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  20. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    I am more familiar with such eggplant recipes in African cuisine but this version looks really good. Love the layering concept and the buttered pine nuts.

  21. TheKitchenWitch says:

    I’ve never heard of this, but it looks and sounds amazing! Wow!

  22. Katerina says:

    I have never heard of this dish before but from the ingredients and the way it is cooked I know I am going to love it! i also like the fact that you tried to lighten it up. I would have done the same thing too!

  23. Nuts about food says:

    I purposely went out and bought my first bottle of pomegranade molasses since I started reading your blog. I have some minced beef at home (can’t get lamb very easily) and plan to try this.

  24. Sue says:

    You made one of my favorite dishes! There is something so comforting about this one. Love it!

  25. TD says:

    So, this dish is eaten on its own? Without any rice, bread or other grains on the side?
    It just seems like a lot of sauce that can be sopped by with some bread. 🙂
    I might have to make this one soon…I love eggplant.

  26. Tom @ Tall Clover says:

    I’ve never had this dish but there’s not an ingredient in it that doesn’t make me lick my chops! Looking forward serving it up shortly, after my big pot of coq au vin is gone.

  27. weirdcombos says:

    Joumana,
    I wonder how this incredible dish would taste like using TVP instead of lamb.
    I am going to try once my kitchen is open for biz again 🙂
    Cheers,
    H

  28. Barbara says:

    Gosh that looks good, Joumana. I love eggplant and lamb. (had roasted eggplant last night, but with a lamb chop.) I still haven’t tried the pomegranate molasses, it sounds so good!

  29. Peter says:

    It looks and sounds fabulous! I’m afraid many in the west are still weary about eggplant – their loss.

  30. lisaiscooking says:

    Interesting–this should be more popular in the US. It looks delicious! I like the idea of the pita croutons on top so they stay crispy, and the pomegranate molasses in the tomato sauce sounds great!

  31. Cherine says:

    You know I’ve never had fattet batenjen… I think I should try it soon, yours looks wonderful!

  32. Adelina says:

    My mouth is watering from this dish. I have never had this dish and need to try making it.

  33. Magic of Spice says:

    Joumana, this is definitely a fantastic dish and one I am unfamiliar with. I bet a vegetarian version would be amazing as well 🙂

  34. May Tartoussy says:

    Hi Joumana

    This dish is one of my favorit, unfortunately it didnt work with me today, as the eggplants in Canada taste like NOTHING. I was so disappointed today. The meal really tasted like plastic and meat.

    There is nothing like the veggies in our countries I guess.
    Thank you though
    May

  35. Mrs. Measurement says:

    This looks absolutely delicious! I actually made a variation of Fattet Betenjan without meat. Instead, I used only eggplant, Arabic bread, chickpeas, pine nuts and yogurt. It was delicious. I’ll have to try the above recipe out.

  36. Joel says:

    This dish is brillian.. I’ve made it a few times from this recipe. However, what do you do with teh 7 1/2 cloves of garlic left after mashing half a clove?

    • Joumana says:

      @Joel: It is not half a clove it is half a teaspoon of mashed garlic; I am sorry if the recipe was not clear enough, I will rectify this; I call for 8 cloves of garlic (or to taste) because I love garlic and always put a lot (plus it is healthy! lol); however, if you like this dish with one clove only, great!

  37. Emily says:

    We had this for breakfast Christmas morn. My Syrian husband was confused why it was the early meal, but all dug in with gusto!

    We improvised by mixing laban with some leftover toome sauce from this summer’s kebab, and we skipped the pine nuts because of allergies. The assertive meat/eggplant mixture perfectly balanced with Armenian string cheese and briny green olives. Yum!

    Thank you for sharing!

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