This is a traditional dish and I believe it is specific to the Sunni communities in Beirut.
While living in California, I became friends with a Lebanese man. He and I worked in the same building. His relatives threw a dinner party and invited me. This is the dish I remembered from dozens on that sprawling table.
Crunchy golden pita croutons, meaty pieces of chicken, creamy yogurt sauce, I was smitten! Turns out there are at least a dozen different types of fatte, each with different ingredients, but always following the same principle: golden croutons, and yogurt sauce blanketing the main ingredients.
Prepared ahead, one step at a time, it should be a cinch to put together.
To get a recipe for a spinach fatteh, click here:
- 2 cans of garbanzo beans or 1 1/2 cups of dried beans, soaked in water overnight with a teaspoon of baking soda.
- 1 pound (or less) of ground meat, lamb if possible; (can omit the meat)
- 1 pint of yogurt, strained a bit through a paper towel and a sieve to get it thick and smooth
- 2 Tablespoons of tahini
- 3 or 4 pita breads, cut into croutons with kitchen shears
- olive oil, as needed
- pine nuts, soaked in water for one hour or longer (or almonds, or both)
- Spices: salt, pepper, allspice, seven-spice or a dash of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom.
- 4 cloves of garlic, mashed with a teaspoon of salt in a mortar (use half for the yogurt and the other half for the beans)
- Place the garbanzo beans in a pressure cooker or a pot and cook adding a pint or more of water until the beans are very soft and tender. If you are using cans, drain the cans and pour into the pot with the cans volume of fresh water. Simmer the beans for one hour or until they are very tender (even if they are canned); drop some ice cubes into the pot (optional step) and when the water is cool enough use two wooden spoons to rub them together and release as much of the skins as possible; discard the skins. Season the garbanzos or hummus with a teaspoon of mashed garlic and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside. You want the mixture to be creamy and chunky and moist.
- Cut the pita bread into squares; place on a cookie sheet with a few tablespoons of oil, mix the croutons and oil well and roast in the oven until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Brown the meat and spice it up with allspice, cinnamon, pepper and seven-spice if available. Drain if needed and set aside.
- Place the drained yogurt in a bowl, add a half-teaspoon of mashed garlic and tahini, mixing well till smooth.
- Drain the pine nuts and fry or roast in the oven till caramel-colored.
- In a pyrex dish, place the heated meat then top with the cooked garbanzos and a bit of their sauce; top with pita croutons. Top the croutons with yogurt and sprinkle some pine nuts on top.
You can assemble this dish by layering first the croutons, then the meat and garbanzos, then yogurt and pine nuts. Or whichever way you like!
I found that if I soak the garlic cloves in a bowl of water for a minute, it is easier to peel the cloves and the skins don’t fly all over the place.
Hummus is the word for garbanzo beans as well as the name of the dip, which is called hummus be-tahini.
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