Just as Middle Easterners love to stuff things, we also like to layer them with bread and yogurt and turn anything into fatteh! Fatteh comes from the Arabic verb "fatta" which means to shred. This refers to the torn bread that forms the base of any fatteh. This chicken version is made across the Levant in so many different ways and it differs from each family. Today I am making it my favourite way.
You may think rice and bread, carb on carb, but trust me it works, and it is not as heavy as you imagine. Some people like to keep the bread soft and once the chicken broth is added to it, it forms a porridge-like layer, but I prefer crispy bread, which begins to slightly soften once everything is layered. The acidity of the lemon and spiciness of the chillies makes this dish pretty light and refreshing. I like mine to be aggressively spiced and for the garlic to be prominent, but the garlic, chilli and tahini levels can be tweaked to your own taste.
Some may be intimidated by the number of layers and steps required to make fatteh, but they are all really easy and the most time-consuming part is waiting for the chicken to cook, during which time you can make everything else, so it really comes together quite quickly. I like to fry my bread in oil, but feel free to toast yours in the oven if you prefer. Using a whole chicken is a nice way to get some dark and white meat, but you could always use whatever pieces you have. It is also a great way to use up any stale bread or leftover chicken.
Start the day with some Cilbir (Turkish eggs)
I like to top my fatteh with the traditional almonds and pine nuts, but I also like to add walnuts. It adds a unique flavour and creaminess that works so well! Feel free to use whatever nuts you like, but I wouldn't skip them because they make the fatteh extra special.
Not only is this dish delicious and flavourful, it also needs almost nothing on the side. It is typically eaten with a side of radish, spring onions and olives, but it can definitely stand on its own! Try this soft, tangy and crispy dish and thank me later!
1 whole chicken
1 onion, quartered
8 cardamom pods
10 black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp mixed spice, divided
1 tbsp oil or butter
2 cups medium grain rice
4 cups water
1 kg yogurt
3-4 tbsp tahini paste
¼ cup lemon juice
3-4 garlic cloves, mashed
5 garlic cloves, mashed
1-2 green chillies, chopped
½ cup lemon juice
2 pitta breads, cut into squares
Oil to fry
Toasted nuts (pine nuts, almonds, and walnuts) to garnish
Parsley, chopped to garnish
- Begin by boiling your chicken. In a large pot, place the chicken, along with the aromatics, except the mixed spices, and enough water to cover the chicken by about 2 inches. Bring to the boil and skim off any foam that may form. Add 1 tbsp of mixed spices, reduce the heat, cover and keep on the hob until cooked through. Strain and reserve the stock to use later. Shred the chicken once cooled.
- Next, make the rice. In a small pot, heat the oil and add the rice. Toast the rice, making sure each grain is coated with oil. Add the water and salt. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat. Leave until rice is cooked and all the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
- To make the yogurt mixture, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, tahini, and garlic. Season with salt to your liking. Adjust the amount of tahini, lemon and garlic to your liking. The garlic will intensify with time, so keep that in mind when adding it.
- Make the sauce by mashing the garlic and chillies in a mortar and pestle. Add the lemon juice and stir. Set aside.
- Place the shredded chicken in a frying pan with some of the reserved stock, salt and the other tablespoon of mixed spices. Heat through and make sure the chicken is adequately moistened and spiced.
- Fry the bread in oil or toast in the oven and toast or fry your nuts of choice. Set aside.
- To assemble, place the fried bread in a large serving platter and spoon some of the reserved stock and a few tablespoons of the sauce over the bread. Next, add the rice in an even layer on the bread. Top with the chicken and spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken and rice. Pour the yogurt sauce over it and top with the toasted nuts and parsley. Eat immediately. Enjoy!
Want a delicious dessert to go with your meal? Try Molten chocolate, coffee and cardamom pots