Monday, June 9, 2008

Syrian Style Fetteh (revised)

I'm revising this recipe that I wrote back in 2008 to be clearer, a bit easier to follow, and to include some changes I've made in how I make the recipe. This is a heavy dish from Syria, often eaten for breakfast, but still popular for all meals. It's sold in steamy shops that that specialize in anything involving chick peas or fava beans, with big round kettles cooking the beans all day long. These were some of my favorite places to eat out during the cold Syrian winter because they were just so warm and cozy.


1 can chickpeas

1 cup yogurt
1 small lemon juiced (about 1/4 c. lemon juice)
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup tahini
1-2 medium cloves garlic crushed with a dash of salt (traditionally done in a mortar and pestle, but you can do it with a fork on a plate or cutting board)
1/4 cup chickpea juice

1 loaf pita bread, toasted and broken into chunks, or cut into squares and fried
1/4 cup chickpea juice.
¼ cup pine nuts (optional)

The chickpeas from a can will not be quite cooked, so either warm them (with all of their juice) on the stove-top until they are soft, or put them in a bowl and microwave 2-3 minutes. Drain them, reserving the chickpea juice.

Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, garlic, tahini and 1/4 cup chickpea juice. On low heat, warm this sauce in a saucepan just until a little warm and the garlic loses some of its edge. If it tastes too lemony, add a bit of tahini and chickpea juice.

The pita bread can either be toasted until crispy, which is easiest, and then broken into chunks. Traditionally, this is done in the mornings with yesterday's bread, so you see shopkeeps spreading out chunks of bread in the morning sun, and then shooing away opportunistic pigeons. However, if you're making a recipe that calls for fried pita pieces anyway, such as fattoush, you can cut the loaf of bread into squares, and then fry it in oil in a heavy pan.

Right before you serve the dish, pour 1/4 c. chickpea juice over the bread chunks, swirl quickly to moisten them, then pour the chickpeas on top, followed by the warm sauce.

Now here's the fun part - this is supposed to be served (of course) with oil on top, but it should be hot. In Syria, they ask you if you want olive oil or (aged?) ghee, called سمن. The ghee is tastier. They heat it, then pour it on top, all sizzling (and dangerous - be careful). If you want to use pine nuts, throw them into the oil at the last moments before adding it to the dish, since they can burn very fast.

I also like to garnish the top with pieces of tomato, as in the picture:

Eat this dish with a spoon. Traditionally, you also get a complementary side plate with Arabic pickles (Turnips, cucumbers, cauliflower, brined in a salt solution), raw onion and fresh tomato wedges. This is a very heavy dish - you probably won't have to eat again for at least 12 hours.

Note: The yogurt sauce portion of this is very versatile. You can also use it with the chick peas without the stale bread, or with large whole fava beans. If you do do that, top with room temperature olive oil, and diced fresh tomato. Eat with Arabic bread, but be prepared to have messy hands. Also served with pickles.

I just realized I have an in-situ picture of fetteh, next to the variants without bread in them ("hummus bi-laban" chickpeas in yogurt, and "ful bizzayt" favabeans (and chickpeas) in a lemon-oil sauce), and you can see the florescent turnips, pickled with some beet juice:

1 comment:

Lillian said...

Mmm yummy I can't wait! Glad to see you didn't lop off a finger in the food processor. Or at least it didn't land in the Fetteh.