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Recipe Development: Fattoush Salad
Overview

Zoe takes you through her fattoush salad, a dish that is all about textures! She achieves this by carefully selecting her vegetables, building layers of crunch and using nuts as part of an Egyptian blend called dukkah which is one of the many North African influences on Israeli cuisine. The end result is a large fragrant bowl of crunchy salad that is perfect for a hot day with the zesty kick from the lemon paste.

Development Stages

Key Components:

Aromatics - The spices Zoe uses are popular among Israel's Arab communities, the fennel seeds bringing a warm, aniseed flavour to the mix combined with the sweet, floral flavour of cardamom. These aromatic seed pods are often used in Arabic coffee which is well-loved across Israel. A lot of the spices she uses have a sweet undertone to them and can often be found in dessert which is why the flavour balances perfectly with the citrus from the lemon paste.

Texture - dukkah is a combination of toasted nuts, seeds and spices. Zoe uses a real mix of nuts for their crunch and different flavour combinations from creamy cashews to aromatic pistachios. The crunch of the vegetables combined with the softness of the cheese and another crunch from the dukkah and the pita croutons create a well-rounded fattoush. Zoe is very deliberate with her choice of ingredients for example, opting for baby cucumbers which contain less liquid than the longer variety so have more of a crunch and she goes for a firmer tomato, again to give more of a 'bite' to the dish.

The bread - fattoush is not a fattoush without bread. Zoe goes for pita and bakes it in the oven for a dryer, crunchier result. It's the ideal way to top off this multi-layered salad.

Teachings:

  1. Cheese making - Learn this basic form of cheese making by salting and acidulation. It is then hung and strained for a couple of days.
  2. Preservation - Create a cured lemon paste and begin to understand different preservation techniques.
  3. 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.

Make It Your Own:

    1. Salad vegetables - have a look to the seasons, for example, you can try fennel, celery, kohlrabi, radish...the crunchier the better! Also if you do use tomatoes, you can try a variety such as orange tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, but ideally the firmer the better for the texture we're after with fattoush.
    2. Labneh - labneh is a soft cheese made by straining the whey from yoghurt using an ancient method that involves wrapping the yoghurt up into a cloth and leaving it to hang. When doing this yourself you can try different yoghurts like sheep's or goat's yoghurt, or a whole milk yoghurt just make sure to not substitute for low fat or fat-free yoghurt as you won't get the same result. If you're short on time, you can also use alternatives like feta, plain yoghurt, mozzarella or look for soft cheeses that are available in your local area. Another option is to shape your labneh into balls using well-oiled hands and coat them in different seasonings like finely chopped chives, crushed walnuts, black sesame, different spice coatings. These are great served as a side to your dish with crackers.
    3. Croutons - for making the croutons, different flatbreads are the way to go such as lavash, sangak or Iranian barbari. For a delicious gluten-free alternative, crispy chickpeas will give you that needed crunch - pat dry chickpeas that have either been cooked from scratch or are straight from the can, season with the za'atar or the seasonings of your choice and bake until crispy at 200°C (400°F) in the oven.
    4. Dukkah - try different nuts and spices to see what combinations you like and don't be put off making a dukkah if you have a nut allergy as it can easily be made using a variety of seeds each with different flavours and textures for example, sunflower seeds, flax seed, sesame seeds, which come to life once roasted and combined with the aromatics.
    5. Make it local - let your journey around your local market guide you when it comes to flavour, keeping an eye out for what's in season. Also dive into the history of your region for inspiration for example, pistachio which Zoe uses, has a rich history and was once associated with royalty in Persia (modern-day Iran, which has heavily influenced Israel's cuisine) where the ownership of pistachio groves meant riches and high status.
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    Zoe Tigner-Haus
    My father is a big eater and as a child we used to have massive lunches at home. It was from him that I learnt a lot about seasoning.