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
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)
- Place the chillies and salt in a medium sterilised jar and mix well. Seal the jar and store in the fridge for 3 days.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
How to make baby gem lettuce with burnt aubergine yoghurt, smacked cucumber and shatta
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.