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How to make stuffed aubergines in tomato and yoghurt sauce

Fatteh'd makdous puts a creamy crunchy spin on Syria's flatbread favourite.
Variations of fatteh can be found across the Middle East (Dalia Dogmoch/#Cook For Syria Recipe Book)

In Arabic, fatteh means to crumble or pull the bread over something. That's the basis of a fatteh, variations of which can be found across the Middle East.

Syrian fattehs are usually known as tissiyeh and are heavy on the chickpeas. For this version I've opted instead for stuffed baby aubergines along with the usual tomato, nuts and yoghurt.

My grandmother always used to say that it is crucial to use baby aubergines because they are sweeter and more tender than their larger relations and combine better with yoghurt.

The different textures and bursts of flavour from the garlic tahini yoghurt, the soft aubergine, the crunchy bread and those nuts combine to deliver a delight found in many a Syrian kitchen.


Recipe

Serves: 6

Preparation and cook time: About 50 mins

Baby aubergines add sweetness to the dish (Dalia Dogmoch/#Cook For Syria Recipe Book)

1. Ingredients

  • 12 baby aubergines
  • 50g (1¾ oz) pine nuts
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 300g (10½ oz) minced lamb (lean preferably)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 250ml (1 cup) water for the tomato sauce
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 1.5kg (3.3lbs) yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 125ml (½ cup) water for the yoghurt mix
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 200g (7oz)  pitta bread
  • 30g (1oz) fresh parsley, chopped
  • 30g (1oz) toasted almonds (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil and butter for frying
Flatbread is the foundation of a successful fatteh (Dalia Dogmoch/#Cook For Syria Recipe Book)

2. Method

Cooking

  1. Cut the top of the aubergines and peel back a few strips. Leave some skin on to reduce the bitterness.
  2. Heat a frying pan over a low heat, add a little vegetable oil and the aubergines. Cover and toss the pan around occasionally to get an even fry on all sides.
  3. This can take 20 - 40 mins, depending on the size of the aubergines. They are ready when they are tender when poked with a fork.
  4. While you are doing this, heat another frying pan over a medium heat, add a little oil and butter and fry the pine nuts until they go golden brown.
  5. Place them on a plate lined with paper napkins.
  6. In the same pan, add the finely chopped onions. Cook until translucent. Add the minced lamb and cinnamon.
  7. Cook the meat for about 5 mins or until it is done. Add half the pine nuts and season with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
  8. In a saucepan, bring water (enough to cover the tomatoes) to a simmer and gently drop in the tomatoes. Let them simmer for 60 seconds, then remove.
  9. Peel, deseed and dice the tomatoes once they are cool enough to handle.
  10. Empty the hot water from the same saucepan, add a little oil, the thinly sliced onions and cook for a few minutes, then add the tomato paste.
  11. Cook for another minute before adding the diced tomatoes, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Add the cup (250ml) of water, bring to a gentle boil, cover and simmer for 10-15 mins. Stir occasionally.
  13. In a bowl, whisk the yoghurt, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water (125ml), salt and pepper. Set aside.
  14. Cut the pitta bread into small squares or break it up using your hands.
  15. Heat a frying pan with a little oil and butter. Toast the bread until golden brown (if you prefer, you can toast them in the oven but this method produces more flavour).
  16. Once the aubergines are ready, cut a long vertical opening in the middle. Stuff them with the meat and pine nut mixture.

Assembling

  1. Using a deep and large serving plate, assemble the dish by starting with the toasted bread.
  2. Top it with the yoghurt, then the tomato sauce.
  3. Place the aubergines on top, sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts (almonds also if you desire) and sprinkle the parsley as the finishing touch.

Dalia Dogmoch Soubra is a Syrian-German cookbook author, food consultant and Harper's Bazaar Arabia’s acting food editor since 2010. Her book Food, Love and Life from Dalia's Kitchen topped charts in the Middle East and her recipes can also be found in the #CookForSyria and #BakeForSyria UNICEF cookbooks, as well as on Dalia’s YouTube channel. You can also follow her on Instagram: @daliaskitchen.