Fattet Hummus: The 5 Layer Casserole of the Arab World

If there are a people that can turn day-old bread into a sumptuous feast, it would be the people of the Middle East. Resourcefulness is practically in their genes, as they turn lowly lentils into regal Mujaddarah, chickpeas into silky hummus, or stale bread into Fatteh. The word Fatteh in Arabic means “crushed” or “crumbs”, as fatteh transforms dry bread or crumbs into a foundation for rich tasting casseroles. In this case, day-old pita bread is cut up crouton sized, then toasted, grilled, or fried. This layer of crunchy bread is then covered with other ingredients that vary according to the region, from Egypt to the Levant. 

In Egypt, fatteh is prepared to celebrate the birth of a child, or for holidays like Ramadan. Egyptians add the crispy bread to a garlic and vinegar flavored meat soup, served alongside rice and a garlic tomato sauce. In Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria, fatteh is served as a breakfast or light dinner. In these countries the bread is covered with strained yogurt, steamed chickpeas, hummus, fruity extra virgin olive oil, and toasted pine nuts. Sometimes the casserole is topped with lamb cubes braised in clarified butter for an extra hearty dish. Other times home cooks add roasted eggplant instead of the lamb. This casserole style version is the one I grew up eating with my family, and I was always excited when my mother served this dish anytime of day. 

One can compare fatteh to a Mexican style 5 layer dip, where pita, yogurt, and chickpeas take the place of refried beans, sour cream, and tortilla chips for dipping. The varying tastes and textures of fatteh all play a symphony on the palate, with buttery chickpeas, cool and creamy minted yogurt, garlicky hummus, and crunchy and nutty toasted pine nuts and croutons. If using dried chickpeas, make sure you soak them  in water and baking soda overnight first. This is key for making them easier to digest. If using canned chickpeas you can skip this step. Making your own hummus greatly enhances this dish, but if you are short on time you can use your favorite store bought hummus. Although this dish is mostly plant based, you can use a non dairy unflavored yogurt for a vegan alternative. 

To see the video demonstration on how to make this dish, you can check out the video below:

Fattet Hummus Serves 4-6

  • 2   8 inch pitas, cut  into 1 inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 16 ounce can of chickpeas, drained, or you can use 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight with 1 tsp baking powder, then drained. 
  • 2-3 cloves whole garlic 
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt (full fat is best)
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint or 1 tsp dried mint
  • 14 tsp. paprika (optional) 
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 cups hummus (either store bought or homemade, recipe below) 

If using dried chickpeas, soak them overnight in water with 1 tsp baking soda. When ready to prepare, drain the chickpeas (either canned or soaked). Add the chickpeas to a skillet,  along with 2-3 cloves of whole garlic, and 1 tsp of cumin. Add enough water to cover, and boil then simmer for about 30 minutes. Drain the chickpeas, reserving a little bit of the water for later. 

Preheat the oven to 400°. Toss the pita pieces with 14 cup oil, salt, and pepper to taste, and spread them on a baking sheet into an even layer. Bake until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Put the pita croutons in a 9 by 9 casserole serving dish. Add the chickpeas to the croutons, and toss with about 2 tbsp of the chickpea water to infuse cumin and garlic flavor. 

Using either store bought hummus or the recipe below, dot the hummus all over the pita and chickpea mixture, then spread gently to cover. For the yogurt sauce, stir the yogurt, mint, paprika, minced garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl; then drizzle over hummus.

Heat the pine nuts  in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the pine nuts until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the casserole with the pine nuts, and then  drizzle with more olive oil. Serve immediately.

Hummus recipe:

  • 1   (15-ounce) can chickpeas  
  • 1/3   cup tahini paste
  • 1/3   cup lemon juice, or to taste  
  • 1   clove garlic, or to taste  
  • 1  teaspoon cumin  
  • 1   teaspoon salt, or to taste

 Drain the chickpeas, reserving about 1/4 cup liquid. Place the chickpeas with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth. If the hummus is too thick, add some of the reserved chickpea liquid until it reaches desired consistency.

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