Vegetables with a meat-only stuffing represent a fancy Sunday meal in all its forms: koussa ablama, stuffed zucchini; sheikh el mehshi, stuffed eggplants (both served with rice); or other versions of stuffed eggplants, such as this one.
Fatteh comes from fatta, meaning “break,” as in breaking the grilled bread of the fatteh. Fatteh is a staple souk breakfast, originally a Damascene specialty: a yogurt sauce (a hint of garlic and some tahini that will soften the yogurt’s taste) and “broken” grilled bread over cooked chickpeas, cubed eggplant, beef tongue, mutton feet (!) … or over stuffed eggplant. The latter version is a fancy party meal rather than a breakfast. The combination of melting eggplant, spicy meat, velvety red sauce, fresh yogurt, and crispy bread is just a taste of heaven!
Makdouss is mainly known as a dish of pickled eggplants stuffed with walnuts, garlic, and chile flakes, preserved in olive oil. This version of fatteh has nothing to do with the pickled version, however; its only similarity is that the eggplant are as small and are also stuffed.
Coring eggplants is much easier than coring zucchini, as the eggplants are firmer and have a tougher skin, making coring a much easier chore!
- 20 eggplants (small ones, preferably finger size; about 2 1/4 pounds, or 1 kg)
- 6 medium yellow onions
- Vegetable oil, as needed
- 2 1/4 pounds (1 kg) coarsely ground beef
- 2 tablespoons (40 g) debs el remmen (pomegranate molasses)
- 1 tablespoon (16 g) red chile paste
- 1/2 teaspoon 7 spices (see page 000)
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups (200 g) pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons (32 g) tomato paste
- 5 medium tomatoes
- 3 pitas
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 1/4 cups (500 g) thick yogurt
- Kamal Mouzawak
Cut off the stem ends of the eggplants, scoop out the cores, rinse, and let drain.
Finely chop 2 of the onions. Heat 1/4 cup (120 ml) of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions till translucent. Add the ground beef, stir well, then add the molasses, chile paste, 7 spices, and salt and pepper, and stir to break up the meat, cooking until it starts losing its pink color.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, sauté the pine nuts in a small amount of vegetable oil till light gold. Add half of the pine nuts to the meat mixture. Reserve the remaining pine nuts.
Stuff the eggplants with the meat mixture, filling them well with the stuffing, as the meat will shrink while it cooks.
Heat 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium heat, and cook the stuffed eggplants till lightly browned on the outside. Drain on paper towels.
Thinly slice the remaining 4 onions. In a pot over medium heat, sauté the onions in 1/4 cup (60 ml) of vegetable oil until melting and lightly colored. Add the tomato paste and keep stirring, to dissolve it well with the onions. Finely chop the tomatoes and add them to the onions. Raise the heat and boil for 5 minutes, for the sauce to dilute. Add the stuffed eggplant to the sauce; there must be enough liquid to just cover the stuffed eggplants. If needed, add water to cover. Bring back to a boil and then lower the heat and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, until the eggplants are well cooked and the sauce is thick. Don’t stir much, as the cooked eggplants are very fragile and will break easily.
Meanwhile, cut the pitas into small squares, and toast in the oven. Pound the garlic clove into a paste and combine with the yogurt in a bowl.
To assemble, heat a serving dish, and start with a layer of stuffed eggplant, loads of thick cooking sauce on top, a layer of toasted bread, some yogurt, and the reserved pine nuts to finish! Serve straight away, before the bread gets soggy.