This dish, just like Israeli cuisine, is a composite of different cultural influences. Fattoush is a bread salad from Northern Lebanon and was a way for farmers to use whatever vegetables and herbs they had on hand which were in season as well as a way of using up leftover pita scraps. The base of the salad in this version uses labneh, an ancient soft cheese found across the Middle East. Its exact origin is unknown but the nomadic Bedouin tribes found that yoghurt, although more stable than milk, was not very portable so they strained it to get labneh, which they then dried to produce jameed - a hard ball of dehydrated cheese. The result was a perfect travelling snack that wouldn't spoil. Over the centuries labneh hasn't changed much since it's so perfectly suited to the region's climate. Zoe also serves this crunchy salad with a paste made from preserved lemons, an age-old technique and tradition that originated in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Then she tops it off with an ancient Egyptian spice and nut mix called dukkah which was created at the crossroads of a spice route bringing in eastern spices. The mix was used from the poorest peasants to the Pharaohs for seasoning the dense bread that was a key part of their diets at the time.
Cheese making - Learn this basic form of cheese making by salting and acidulation. It is then hung and strained for a couple of days.
Preservation - Create a cured lemon paste and begin to understand different preservation techniques.
Dukkah - Derived from meaning "to pound" learn how to make this condiment that can be found across all markets in the middle east and how to time the roasting of each ingredient.
Lemon Paste (pre-prep)
1x large chopping board, 1x chef knife, 1x waste bowl, 1x jar, 1x rolling pin, 1x muslin cloth and string, 1x sieve, 1x whisk, 1x large bowl, 3x bowls, 1x frying pan, 1x food processor, 1x spatular
There is preparation ahead of time to do for this dish. At the start of the week, follow steps 1-3 to prepare your lemon cure and cheese.
We're going to have some pre-prep for this recipe. At the start of the week before creating the dish, complete steps 1-3.
Slice fresh lemons creating rounds, and grab a small and sterilised jar along with a bowl of Maldon salt. Take one of the slices and cover generously in the salt, placing the slices into the clean jar one by one. Once the jar is filled, apply plenty of pressure and squeeze down on the lemon slices to allow some of the juices to come out. If you have created more room in the jar from your pressure, add another slice of lemon so the jar is full-up.
Cover the jar with a small amount of parchment paper, seal the jar and leave it in the fridge for a couple of days.
After 2 days, remove the cured and now preserved lemons from the fridge. To the lemons add some olive oil and vegetable oil (roughly 2-1 vegetable oil to olive oil), covering the lemons completely. Bin the parchment paper and cover with the lid sealing tightly.
Leave in the fridge once more for 2/3 days (it will keep for as long as you like now) until we make our recipe.
To create our labneh we are going to need the full fat yoghurt, sheep's milk yoghurt and a lemon. Add 4 table spoons of the sheep's milk yoghurt and then the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt. Now, whisk the ingredients together until everything is mixed and you have a shiny and thick mixture. Grab a large bowl and place a strainer on top. Now with the cloth over the bowl and strainer pour your yoghurt mixture into the cloth.
Bring the sides of cloth together and squeeze the top (you will see how sweaty the cloth gets). Now cut your string leaving plenty of thread to hang the labneh from. Tidy away any empty bowls and equipment and then find somewhere in the fridge to hang the labneh for a couple of days (with a bowl underneath).
Pre-heat your oven to 130°C/266°F. Take your couple day old pitta along with the dried za'atar. Into a bowl tear the pita bread into bite sized pieces and drizzle over a generous amount of olive oil. Mix well rubbing the olive oil into the pita, next be generous with the za'atar we want it to be a dominant flavour. Now chuck that in our oven and leave to cook. Wipe down our board, and once we are clean and tidy let's make our dukkha.
Place a dry pan onto the heat and leave to come up to temperature. Add your mixture of nuts to the pan and allow to toast. Keep tossing the pan giving them a couple of minutes - they should start giving out an amazing aroma and be turning a golden brown. Once you are happy with the colour, remove from the heat and add ground cardamon, fennel seeds and coriander seeds. Now, back to the fire and onto the heat, giving it your full attention (we don't want anything to burn). The seeds will quickly release all these lovely aromas. Remove from the heat.
Again, tidy down any empty bowls on your work surface so we have a clean area for the food processor and tip your whole nuts into the holder that should have a blade attached. Pulse your toasted nuts to a chunky crumb and as you can see we have a beautiful dukkah ready to go. Decant into a bowl and leave to the side. We've got our dukkah ready and now we need to wash the processor so we can make our cured lemon paste.
Moving back to our mixer, add about half a jar of the cured lemons and puree until you have a paste that still has some bits in it. So, here we go we have our beautiful, creamy, cured lemon paste. Move into another bowl and check on the pitta croutons.
Take your labneh out of the fridge - it should now be much firmer, shrunk in size and no longer like a liquid. Place into a serving bowl and leave to one side. Have another clean down and then let's chop the vegetables for the salad. Firstly our red onion - dice into large chunks and place into a serving bowl. Next, our radishes, cutting roughly, then dice the tomatoes and dice the baby cucumbers as roughly as you like.
Pick the oregano leaves, slice the leafy herbs and the spring onions and add to the salad. Now let's season our salad - drizzle olive oil over the salad, add salt and then finally our beautiful cured lemon paste. We want to use plenty to coat the salad in the paste. Mix really well and then taste. Add the oregano and let's clean down before plating.
To a large, deep bowl, add your labneh which I like to spread hummus style around the base of the bowl. Top with our glorious fattoush salad. Pull the pitta croutons out of the oven, then take your dukkha and sprinkle nicely on top. Next the croutons and finally the sumac over the top of our full bowl of salad.
Here we go, our glorious fattoush salad. Enjoy!
Step 1 (pre prep)
Curing is the process of salting. Curing alters the lemons in different ways depending on how long we do it. For many years it was seen as a method of preserving for long periods of time. Now curing is used (as well as preservation) to extract excess water and to give us a firmer and meatier texture, seasoning our lemon and killing any harmful bacteria.
Olive oil is unique for being extracted from a fleshy fresh fruit (rather than a dried nut or grain) as well as the distinct flavour carrying through into the final product. The large pulp layer surrounding the central seed can be as much as 30% oil.
We use a ratio of vegetable and olive oil to stop the olive oil from solidifying under cooler temperatures.
You will be provided with a muslin cloth in your specialist box but when creating this recipe again, feel free to use any sort of cloth when straining your labneh.
I have a pre-hung and strained labneh made but you will need to leave yours to drain for a couple of days.
Adding salt to the mixture before the hanging process will help us achieve a couple of things when making our soft cheese. Firstly, it helps prevent any spoilage bacteria from growing and also draws out any moisture.
When we strain the yoghurt we are draining all the excess moisture from the yoghurt helping us (along with the acid and salt) achieve the firm texture.
Step 4 (Cooking day)
I like my pita croutons slightly larger along with some smaller pieces to go into my salad and create a variety of textures.
Za'atar is traditionally a mixture of: marjoram, oregano, thyme, sesame, sumac
Nuts are good simply toasted in a dry pan to release their natural oils and flavour. Due to their size and being dried they can be cooked at lower temperatures (usually 175°C/347°F). When cooking nuts the key things you are looking for are colour, flavour and aroma. Nuts become soft when hot due to the tissue being softened by heat so we aren't necessarily looking for texture once cooked.
Cardamon is a very overpowering taste so be careful when adding it to your dukkah.
If you don't have a food processor, add your toasted nuts and aromatics into a sealed bag and use a rolling pin to bash them into a chunky crumb or roughly chop with a knife on your chopping board. This may take some time but you can easily achieve the same result.
When using a food processor and trying to achieve anything that isn't a fine puree (like our Dukkha) use the pulse mode (or pulse your blender). This will help us achieve an even crumb and stop the blades getting hold of the nuts too much and breaking them down to a fine powder.
My lemons have been in the fridge for 5 or 6 days but don't worry yours will be delicious and ready after 2 or 3!
Labneh once strained should be much firmer and textured, you will also notice it has roughly halved in size.
I like to cut the vegetables roughly to create multiple layers of textures.
Season your salad further with more lemon paste or salt but do remember the curing process for the lemons that will bring a saltiness to the dish.
Sumac is a small, dried, purple red berry of a shrubby relative of the cashew and mango trees. Sumac is known for being very tart due to its malic acids and abundant tannins which are roughly 4% of its weight.
Feel free to serve this how you like, in a big bowl that can be shared between people or on smaller individual plates!