Baby gem lettuce with burnt aubergine yoghurt, smacked cucumber and shatta - Falastin (pg 96)

Ingredients

5–6 baby gem lettuces (500g), bases trimmed
1½ tbsp shatta (red or green) (or rose harissa, 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

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

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

Baby gem lettuce with burnt aubergine yoghurt, smacked cucumber and shatta - Falastin (pg 96)


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 Ottolenghi chef Calvin Von Niebel 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.

Serves four generously


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 Glossary for more detailed instructions. Once cooked, the scooped-out 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.