Fattoush, as its simplest, is another tomato and bread salad – a common combination around the globe. And as tomato and bread is a very very good basis for a salad; it is no wonder that it is popular.
But mention Fattoush to anyone from the Middle East to Israel, and you are likely to find yourself in a discussion (argument?) about the composition of the salad. Is sumac essential? Should other spices be included? Is garlic necessary? Is the bread to be toasted? Or fried? What is the dressing made of? What herbs are included? How big should the pita pieces be?
It is one of THOSE salads, loved and protected by all who eat it regularly. It is a type of chopped salad with tomatoes and includes pita. A salad that is best when all ingredients are the freshest and best quality available.
Arab salad, chopped salad, Israeli salad – whatever you choose to call it. Wherever you go in the city, at any time of the day, a Jerusalemite is most likely to have a plate of freshly chopped vegetables – tomato, cucumber and onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice – served next to whatever else they are having. Friends visiting us in London always complain of feeling they ate ‘unhealthily’ because there wasn’t a fresh salad served with every meal.
Ottolenghi and Tamimi, in their book Jerusalem, have a recipe that comes from Sammi’s mother. Sami can’t recall anyone else in the neighbourhood making it. this way She called it fattoush, as it includes chopped vegetables and bread. She soaks the untoasted or fried bread in a kind of home-made buttermilk, which makes it terribly comforting. It is a gorgeous salad and the home made buttermilk dressing is wonderful. It does make it quite different to other versions of Fattoush.
Try to get small cucumbers for this as for any other fresh salad. If you need to use the larger, long cucumbers, perhaps remove the seeds before using, if you wish.
Summer purslane, a tangy succulent with fleshy leaves and something of the lamb’s lettuce about it, is commonly found in fattoush in its homelands, and is well worth adding for its lovely lemony flavour. I have included it as we have it growing.
It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. (This recipe is from Jerusalem.) Note that I often slightly massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.
Browse all of our Tomato Salads, and all of our Israeli recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Jerusalem are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through Plenty More. Or explore our Mid Autumn dishes.
400ml buttermilk, or 200g Greek yogurt and 200ml full-fat milk
250g stale Turkish flatbread or naan (2 large ones)
3 large tomatoes, cut into 1.5cm dice
100g radishes, thinly sliced
3 Lebanese or mini cucumbers, peeled and chopped into 1.5cm dice
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
30g purslane leaves, well washed (optional)
15g mint, roughly chopped
25g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 Tblspn dried mint
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 Tblspn lemon juice
60ml olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 Tblspn cider or white wine vinegar
¾ tspn coarsely ground black pepper
1.5 tspn sea salt
1 Tblspn sumac or more according to taste, to garnish
If using yoghurt and milk, start at least three hours and up to a day in advance by placing both in a bowl. Whisk well and leave in a cool place or in the fridge until bubbles form on the surface. What you get is a kind of home-made buttermilk, but less sour.
Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add your fermented yoghurt mixture or buttermilk, followed by the rest of the ingredients, mix well and leave for 10 minutes for all the flavours to combine. Spoon the fattoush into serving bowls, drizzle with olive oil and garnish generously with sumac.