Fattoush Bread Salad

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Fattoush – a middle-eastern bread salad – is endlessly open to experimentation. Even in the middle-east people disagree on what to include. Add in torn lettuce leaves, omit cucumber if you don’t have any, use any toasted bread if that’s what you have or even wholewheat pita breads. Sumac is traditional – you find it in middle-eastern shops – but if you haven’t got it use plain or smoked paprika instead. Add finely chopped or dried chillies and use a nutty oil instead of olive oil. It may not be strictly traditional but your job as a cook is not to meet the objectives of some cookery writer who you’ll never meet – it’s to make the best use of ingredients that you have to hand.

Serves 4

2 middle-eastern flatbreads or 4 pita breads, lightly toasted
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced (according to taste)
1 tablespoon balsamic or cider vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
Good pinch of sumac (use paprika if you don’t have it)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber, cut into cubes
1 red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
8 mint leaves, chopped finely

Instructions

1. Heat a large frying pan, griddle or tawa (see below). Place the flatbreads or pita breads on it and heat until toasted on both sides (turn them during cooking) and puffed up. Leave to cool and tear into bite-sized pieces.

2. Make the dressing: mix the garlic, vinegar, olive oil and sumac (or paprika) in a bowl or jam jar with a lid. Season to taste.

3. Mix all the ingredients together with clean hands in a serving bowl adding just enough dressing to moisten the bread. Sprinkle over a little sumac or paprika as a garnish.

What’s a tawa?
A tawa or tawah is a flat frying pan which you use to cook or heat breads. It conducts heat really efficiently so we find that our tortillas, pita breads and flatbreads positively bloom when we use one. They are quite reasonable and you find them in the discount supermarkets on offer sometimes or in the middle-eastern shops and at Amazon.

Helpful advice on the serving of a bread salad from Elisabeth Luard, the food writer
In her seminal book ‘European Peasant Cookery’, food writer Elisabeth Luard has a tip for anyone making a bread salad for diners who may not be keen.

Luard writes: ‘If your guests are unused to the notion of a soaked-bread salad, set out all the ingredients separately, and encourage everyone to choose and dress their own’. She offers a recipe for an authentic version of Panzanella, the classic Italian bread salad, which includes stale day-old bread rolls, ripe plum tomatoes, olive oil, capers, black olives and a few basil leaves seasoned with salt and a sprinkling of wine vinegar. Choose your own proportions depending on what you have in your kitchen and what tastes good. She uses 6 bread rolls, 750g tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of capers, 2 tablespoons of black olives, a few basil leaves and dresses it with a good pinch of salt and a tablespoon of wine vinegar. She serves the salad at room temperature which is good advice also for our fattoush recipe above.

Elisabeth Luard’s book ‘European Peasant Cookery’ is surprisingly out of print now but you can find a well-kept or remaindered copy on Amazon or try Alibris – they have a UK and American site and we switch from one to other depending on the availability of the author. It’s a good way of finding out-of-print and in-print books and saving a few quid as the books cost less and are often in perfect condition. The author is a hero in the gréatfood kitchen – we all stand on the shoulders of cooks who travelled and found and shared genuine local recipes and they are part of the reason that we are now online or in print writing about food.

Image copyright foodpixies.com

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