This is my personal twist on a staple salad from the Middle East, fattoush. I have provided the recipe first and then some further reading and thoughts for those who are interested in reading more about fattoush and “authenticity” in food.
Preparation Time: 20-25 mins
Serves: 6 as a side dish, 4 as a main (you might choose to add some protein such as chicken or feta cheese or maybe toss through some cooked chickpeas if wanting to eat vegan)
- 1 romaine lettuce, cut into strips
- 2 peppers (any colour – here I used yellow and orange), chopped into chunks
- 10 radishes, halved
- 3 spring onions, cut into 1cm lengths on the angle
- 1 large avocado, cut into chunks
- 10 small tomatoes, halved
- 1 small pack parsley
- 4 sprigs of mint
- 1 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, toasted
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 1/2 tsp sumac (plus a little to sprinkle on the top)
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed (optional – I did not use this in the photographed dish)
There are really 3 stages to this and many other salads: Prep, Dress, Toss. Make sure that you wash all the veg thoroughly first. It’s a very easy recipe and whilst the list of ingredients is quite long, all the time is in the preparation of the vegetables. The more you make this, the quicker you will get (a professional chef could comfortably prep this in under 10 mins).
- Prepare the vegetables and combine in a bowl
- Finely chop the parsley and mint.
- If not already toasted heat the pumpkins seeds over a medium heat until they darken and start “popping” – combine with the hemp and sunflower seeds.
- Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake / whisk together. If it is a little thick then add some extra oil.
- Add half the dressing to the vegetables and toss together. Add more dressing as required (to taste), top with the nuts and seeds and serve.
This is the Middle East’s equivalent of a green salad – a ubiquitous accompaniment that is eaten most days in the Levantine region. It is teeming with delicious vegetables and a luscious dressing. Fattoush recipes invariably include tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, parsley, mint, with variations including (or omitting) romaine lettuce, peppers, pomegranate and pitta bread. Made with top quality ingredients it is a riot of colour, flavour and carries a hefty nutritional punch. Salads tend to lend themselves to summer and many of the ingredients are at their best during this season but supermarkets tend to stock the ingredients year round.
I love eating “local” dishes in the places where they were conceived but I am not part of the hardcore “authenticity” brigade. Different foods migrate – as do people – and new arrivals enrich and augment the places where they land. It’s hard to conceive of South East Asian food without chillies because they are now so quintessentially part of those cuisines but these little bullets of spice only made it to India at the turn of the 16th century and given that chillies were used in Mexican cuisine as long ago as 7000BC they are a very recent addition. What starts as “fusion” becomes tradition and for me the epitome of cooking is experimentation. If you are bold and not scared to try new things then your successes will outweigh your failures. And the more you experiment, the more you come to understand which ingredients pair well together.
If you want to check out the ins and outs of Fattoush then I highly recommend this excellent article from the Guardian a couple of years ago. Both the Guardian and its Sunday Sister, the Observer, are marvellous for their food coverage, boasting a stellar team of writers:
With this in mind, I offer the following recipe that is more than a gentle nod to fattoush but goes a little further according to what I had in stock and what I fancied eating. I also wanted to make this into a hearty lunch in its own right rather than an appetizer or side salad.
The major changes versus an “authentic” fattoush are that I have swapped pitta for avocado, added in pomegranate (for flavour and colour) and augmented the dressing with some creamy tahini and added a variety of seeds for their nutrients (particularly omega 3 and zinc).
The other twist that I almost always add with food from the broader Middle East and North Africa region is harissa. If you like spice this pairs amazingly well even though it is mostly found in Tunisia and Morocco rather than in Lebanon and surrounding lands.
The key message is this: take the base recipe and play around with it as this will lead you to create your own minor miracles. This goes fantastically well with almost any meat or fish, particularly grilled and could be combined with a tabbouleh (or just plain brown rice) as part of a bigger meal.
Let me know what you think below!
Author: Tom Arundel
It’s rare for anyone to get an hour to explore their wellness goals with a trained professional. As a trained Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I create a supportive environment that enables you to articulate and achieve your goals.