This week I’m conjuring up memories of time spent in the Middle East in my childhood. This is not a precise recipe for Fattoush Salad but a kitchen sink interpretation instead.
I often think over how difficult it must have been for my father and mother to live apart for long periods of time as he served with UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). Particularly now as I have my own children I’ve a greater understanding of how my mother felt at home for months on end with 4 young girls and my father stuck in another country before the advent of easily accessible mobile phones and internet connections.
Deep in the attic back in the family home there are some old tape reels of myself and my closest sister singing nursery songs from the first time Dad went away (I was 4 I think), likewise there are tapes of him endlessly reading us bedtime stories in an effort to continue to be part of our lives despite being so far away. For his later trips to Lebanon I remember us collecting the Sunday Paper and wrapping it in airmail envelopes scrawled with our missives. All to connect him with home and vice versa.
So when my mother had the chance to spend some time living in Israel close to the border so that Dad could commute to work everyday I can understand why she jumped at the chance. My food memories and tastes have been forever changed by those few, short, hot months spent living by the coast.
Dad has made a variation of this salad to stuff into fresh pitta bread for as long as I can remember. I know now that it is actually a Fattoush Salad and I prefer to eat it straight from the bowl. Salad is a great way to use up stale bread by toasting it in the oven with lashings of olive oil until it goes caramel brown, slightly bitter and makes a lovely contrast with the sweet parts of the salad. The salad itself is Lebanese in origin so I’m assuming Dad loved it from the first moment he ate it over 30 years ago now, as did I when he introduced it to the family.
Eating Fattoush no matter what the weather conjures up sunbright days spent shading our eyes from the glare off the sea at Naquora while the faint boom in the distance heralds another fisherman getting ready to throw out his nets after blowing a grenade in the water. Laughable as it seems now watching fishing this way is one of my most vivid memories!
This salad will serve 2 hungry adults for lunch. You can make it up to 4 hours in advance, personally I prefer to eat it freshly dressed and crunchy. If you have toasted seeds to add to the salad, do! For a main meal you could add a piece of steak or increase the amount of eggs in the salad for protein or even serve with mixed beans.
- 2 slices of stale, day old bread (or as I’ve used here a piece of stale french stick sliced)
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 8 cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 cucumber
- 1/2 butterhead lettuce
- 1 carrot
- 1 red apple
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
- 1 teaspoon of tahini (sesame paste)
- 1 boiled egg
- Vegetable Peeler
- Sharp Knife
- Chopping Board
- Large Bowl
- Small cup or dish
- Wash and dry all your fruit and vegetables.
- Peel and grate the carrot into the bottom of the large bowl.
- Slice the cherry tomatoes in half.
- Chop the cucumber into chunks but slice off the wet, seeds before chopping and discard. They are too watery for this salad.
- Tear the lettuce into chunks.
- Drizzle the slices of bread with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and grill until golden brown.
- Set to one side to cool slightly. Once cool break the bread in your hands if you like to turn it into small croutons.
- Slice the onion into strips, not too big, about the length of your baby finger.
- Core and chop the apple into chunks, leaving the skin on for texture.
- In the small cup combine the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, tahini and wholegrain mustard.
- Put all the ingredients into the large bowl, including the liquid dressing.
- Using your (clean!) hands turn over the salad ingredients until they are well coated with dressing then serve.
- Season to taste if you wish.