I love to explore new places and I love to get lost. To my mind, it’s only way to discover a place. My Israeli friends think I am absolutely insane to walk out into the summer sun with no destination in mind but I walk in the shade and find the sanctuary of a tiny cafe when the sun is at its highest. There I will sit with a notebook and a pen, observing my surroundings and recording everything I see, hear and smell for a story that I will recollect at another time. There is – or was – a very small cafe around the back of Jaffa where I would always order this salad for it was enough on a hot day and I loved the sweetly marinated tomatoes with their zesty high notes. Fattoush is, of course, a Lebanese salad but this one is inspired by my host who once loved a boy from Beirut. The rest is a story for another day. For the best results, prepare the dressing a day ahead to enable all the flavours to come together.
4 ripe plum tomatoes, cut lengthways into eighths
2 tsp Lebanese za’atar
2-3 thick slices of seeded sourdough
Lebanese extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
1 romaine lettuce, cut into 2cm strips
100g pomegranate arils, reserving a few for garnishing
2 sprigs of fresh oregano or mint, leaves picked
Crushed hibiscus petals, to serve
For the dressing:
2 garlic cloves
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Splash of pomegranate molasses
1 tsp sumac
Half tsp dried mint
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns, to your taste
How I make it
Peel the garlic cloves and crush with the back of a knife. Place in a small bowl and add the remaining dressing ingredients. Combine and set aside to stand for around an hour or overnight if you can. Discard the garlic and add the prepared tomatoes and the za’atar. Gently stir everything together, cover and set aside for a couple of hours to allow the dressing and the tomato juice to combine.
Heat an oven to 180C.
Cut the bread into 2cm cubes and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously. Place in the oven and toast for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
When you’re ready to serve, add the bread and all the other ingredients to the marinated tomatoes and gently mix together. Sprinkle with the remaining pomegranate arils and crushed hibiscus petals.
For a more substantial salad, crumble in 200g barrel-aged feta or some creamy goat’s cheese.
Click this link to read the recipe for my Sheinkin fattoush salad with an aromatic green olive and za’atar tapenade.