Fatteh is a favourite of Levantine people in and outside Ramadan. In its simplest form fatteh is shredded bread soaked in stock with some kind of topping. There are variations of Fatteh or similar bread based dishes all over the Middle East.
In Ramadan, Fatteh is the perfect starter to the evening meal. It is soft and easy to eat on an empty stomach after a long day of starvation. Above all it is definitely delicious.
In Syria, fatteh consists of three layers (sometime four, more on that later); Base of shredded bread soaked in stock, middle layer of the main ingredient and finally a youghrt and tahini sauce topping. Bread can be used fresh in some types of fatteh and fried in others. The middle layer could be one of many. Chickpeas, chicken, stuffed aubergines, kidneys are the most common roughly in that order. More exotic topping could include kidneys and trotters.
Chicken fatteh is a Damascene favourite. Served as a supper dish in many restaurants around town especially in the Old City. Biet Jabri used to serve an excellent chicken fatteh. I hadn't had any there for many years so I can't comment on the standard these days.
In Hama, chicken fatteh is served as a main dish rather than a starter. They fry the bread and add a fourth layer of cooked rice.
When serving fatteh you need to assemble it at the absolute last minute, when people are actually on the table. It need to be eaten immediately as the bread start to become soggy and the whole thing turn stodgy if you leave it anything more than few minutes. So, get everything ready beforehand.
One last thing before the recipe, please don't use Pitta bread for this dish. It will get very soggy. Please make the effort to find Arabic flat bread. It is sold in all the big Tesco stores and Middle Eastern shops.
Here is my Chicken Fatteh recipe:
Serves four as a starter or two hungry people as a nice warm supper.
Arabic bread 3 standard size (small)
Chicken thighs 4
Chicken stock 500mls
Onion cut into quarters
Youghrt 500 g
Tahini 4 tbs
Garlic 2-3 cloves
Parsley chopped 4 tbs
Start by cooking the chicken and making your stock. Wash the chicken thighs, cover with water and bring to boil skimming the surface till totally clear. Add the onion and Salt and pepper, turn down the heat and let simmer slowly for 45 - 60 min. This will give tender cooked chicken and beautiful golden stock. I don't use carrot, celery or bouquet garni to make my stock if I am cooking Arabic food, instead I use literally two cloves and two cardamoms. When cooked, remove the chicken and let cool down. Strain your stock and return to very low heat till you are ready to use it.
Shread your Arabic bread into one inch pieces. (picture above)
Remove the chicken meat from the bone and shred to bite size.
Add youghurt, tahini, crushed garlic, squeeze of lemon and salt and mix together to make your topping. Add more or less tahini as you like.
Now is the tricky bit, you may not get this right the first time or even if you make fatteh regularly you might still get one wrong every once in a while. The amount of stock varies on how fresh your bread is. The amounts I used (500mls stock and 3 standard size loafs) worked fine with fresh bread. If your bread is stalled or two days old you might need more stock as it will absorb more water.
To make the dish put the bread and the chicken in a deep bowl. Add one third of the youghurt sauce and the stock and mix together. Spoon the rest of the youghrt topping and spread evenly on top.
Garnish with parsley, roasted pine nuts and paprika and serve immediately.