Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley's Baby Gem Lettuce With Burnt Aubergine Yoghurt, Smacked Cucumber And Shatta 

This works well either as a stand-alone starter or as part of a spread or side. It’s lovely with some hot smoked salmon or trout. ‘Smacked’ cucumbers sounds a bit dramatic but, really, it’s just a way of bruising them so as to allow all the flavour to seep through to the flesh. Thanks to Craig Tregonning for this salad.

Getting ahead: Make all the elements well in advance, here, if you like: up to a day for the cucumber and the aubergine yoghurt, and the shatta needs to be made in advance, so you’ll be all set here.

Playing around: Some crumbled feta on top works very well, and if you don’t have the Urfa chilli flakes, just use a pinch of black nigella seeds or some black sesame seeds.

This recipe is extracted from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (£28, Ebury Press). Photography © Jenny Zarins

Ingredients  Serves: 4

  • 5–6 baby gem lettuces (500g), bases trimmed
  • 1½ tbsp shatta (red or green) (or zhoug, as an alternative)
  • ½ tsp Urfa chilli flakes (or a small pinch of nigella seeds or black sesame seeds, as an alternative)
  • Salt and black pepper 

Ingredients for the aubergine yoghurt

  • 2 large aubergines (500g)
  • 35g Greek-style yoghurt
  • ½ a garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 1½ tbsp tahini (25g)

Ingredients for the smacked cucumber

  • 1 regular English (i.e. not a small Lebanese) cucumber, peeled, sliced in half lengthways and watery seeds removed (180g)
  • 25g parsley, roughly chopped
  • 25g mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ a garlic clove, roughly chopped 
  • 50ml olive oil

Ingredients for the shatta

  • 250g red or green chillies (stems trimmed and then very thinly sliced with seeds)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • olive oil, to cover and seal

How to make shatta (make 3 days prior)

  1. Place the chillies and salt in a medium sterilised jar and mix well. Seal the jar and store in the fridge for 3 days.
  2. On the third day, drain the chillies, transfer them to a food processor and blitz: you can either blitz well to form a fine paste or roughly blitz so that some texture remains.
  3. Add the vinegar and lemon juice, mix to combine, then return the mixture to the same jar. Pour enough olive oil on top to seal, and keep in the fridge.
  4. Once made, shatta will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months. The oil will firm up and separate from the chillies once it’s in the fridge, so just give it a good stir, for everything to combine, before using.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024

How to make baby gem lettuce with burnt aubergine yoghurt, smacked cucumber and shatta

  1. There are two ways to chargrill the aubergines: on an open flame on the stove top, or in a chargrill pan on an induction hob followed by 10 minutes in a hot oven. See page 335 for more detailed instructions. Once cooked, the scoopedout flesh should weigh about 160g. Place this in the bowl of a food processor along with the yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice, tahini and ½ teaspoon of salt. Blitz for about a minute, until completely smooth, then set aside until needed.
  2. Prepare the cucumber by placing each half on a chopping board, cut side facing down. Using the flat side of a large knife, lightly ‘smack’ them until bruised but still holding their shape. Cut the cucumber into roughly 1cm dice and set aside.
  3. Clean the food processor, then add the parsley, mint, garlic, olive oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Blitz for about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides a couple of times if you need to, to form a smooth paste, then add to the cucumber. Set aside for at least 20 minutes (and up to a day in advance if kept in the fridge) for the flavours to infuse.
  4. Slice each head of baby gem lengthways to make 8 long thin wedges (per lettuce). When ready to assemble, arrange the lettuce on a round platter, overlapping the outer and inner circle to look like the petals of a flower. Lightly sprinkle the wedges with salt and a grind of black pepper, then splatter over the aubergine yoghurt. Spoon over the cucumber, drizzle with the shatta, sprinkle over the chilli flakes and serve.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024


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