Fattet Makdous is part of the family of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean meat-stuffed aubergines (or eggplants), but what makes it Syrian is the addition of pita. This recipe is made up of five mini recipes, all of which can be made a couple of days in advance and put together when you’re ready.
This recipe was featured in my A World In My Kitchen series for the Waterloo Public Library.
(Scroll past the video for the recipe)
For the aubergines (eggplants) and pitas
- 6-8 Italian aubergines (eggplants)
- flavourless oil (for deep frying)
- 4 large pocket-style pitas
For the tomato sauce
- 30 ml olive oil (2 Tbsp)
- 275 g onions, sliced (2 medium)
- 30 ml tomato paste (2 Tbsp)
- 750 g tomatoes, diced
- 30 ml pomegranate molasses (2Tbsp)
- 5 ml salt, to taste (1 tsp)
- 2.5 ml pepper (½ tsp)
- 250 ml water (1 cup), or more, as needed
For the hashweh (cooked meat)
- 30 ml olive oil (2 Tbsp)
- 275 g onions, chopped (2 medium)
- 5 ml seven-spice powder (1 tsp)
- 500 g ground beef
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 45 ml pine nuts either dry-toasted or fried in ghee/butter
For the laban bet.hini (yoghurt sauce)
- 500 ml plain yoghurt (2 cups)
- 60 ml tahini (¼ cup)
- 4 garlic cloves, smooshed into a paste with a pinch of salt
- chopped parsley
- pomegranate arils
- pine nuts (toasted or fried)
For the aubergines (eggplants) and pitas:
- Fill a high-sided pot with about 4 or 5cm of oil and heat to 180C/350F or until a grain of rice sinks and then floats and fries in the oil.
- Meanwhile, slice off the aubergines’s stem ends. When the oil comes to temp, fry in batches, 2-3 minutes per side or until the tip of a sharp knife easily pierces the flesh. Remove from oil and let drain on kitchen towelling and let cool. Let the oil come back up to temp before adding the next batch.
- Once cooled, these can be refrigerated (without stuffing) in a sealed container for a couple of days.
- Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. When the oven comes to temp, place the aubergines on the tray (don’t slice the tops off—you want to make sure the steam stays inside the veg) and bake them, turning them every 15 minutes.
- They’re done when their flesh is soft. Start checking after about 45 minutes by pressing on the fullest part of their belly - depending on their size and density, it can take about an hour to be able to pierce them with the tip of a sharp knife (Don’t start poking them too early, otherwise the steam will escape and they’ll start to dry).
- When ready, remove from the oven, tent them in foil and let cool. Once cooled, these can be refrigerated (without stuffing) in a sealed container for a couple of days.
For the pitas:
- Fill a high-sided pot with about 4 or 5cm of oil and heat to 180C/350F or until a grain of rice sinks and then floats and bubbles in the oil. Drop the pita ribbons in batches and fry until they are golden. Remove them to drain in kitchen towels. Once cooled, these can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for a week or so.
For the tomato sauce:
- Sauté the onions, with a pinch of salt, in the olive oil until golden. Move the onions to the side and add the paste and fry until it turns colour, then, mix into the onions. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, pomegranate molasses and add one cup of water. Stir occasionally as the pot comes to a boil. Lower the flame, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Balance flavours to taste.
- The sauce should be loose but not watery, so add more water or let it simmer longer, but uncovered, to thicken, if needed. If making the sauce a couple of days in advance, let it cool before storing in the fridge.
For the hashweh:
- Sauté the onions in olive oil until golden. If using, add the 7-Spice and cook the spice mix blooms and then stir into the onions. Break up the meat as you add it to the pan, and mix with the onions so they are well-distributed. Add salt and pepper. Sauté, breaking up the mince so it’s nubbly and all traces of pink are gone. Drain off excess fat and water, mix in the pine nuts and set aside to cool. This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
For the laban ber.hini
- Mix the yoghurt, tahini, and garlic. Add water (if needed) so it’s of pouring consistency. Add salt to taste. This can be made a few days in advance and stored in the fridge.
- Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer.
- While the sauce is warming up, cut a slit into the aubergines and open them up like a canoe. Fill with a spoon or two of the meat filling. Any leftover meat can be used as garnish.
- Once the aubergines are stuffed and the sauce is simmering, add the aubergines, cut side up, in batches. Heat in the tomato sauce for about three or four minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Spread the pita pieces in a layer in a casserole or serving dish. Then cover with tomato sauce, reserving some for the table. Layer the stuffed aubergines on top. Spoon more tomato sauce over top, if wanted. If you made the yoghurt sauce in advance, give it a stir—you may need to add a few drops of water if it’s thickened too much while resting. Drizzle the yoghurt sauce over top, again, reserving some for the table. Garnish with parsley, pomegranate arils pine nuts and any remaining stuffing mixture.
- Cut 3 cm slices, and then cut a slit half-way through, along the middle (so it’s like a clam or a bao bun)
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and grease a tinfoil-lined baking tray
- Rub a little olive oil over each side of the slices and into the cut and then place on the prepared tray. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes per side, or until the point of a sharp knife easy pierces the flesh. Remove and cool. Once cooled, these can be refrigerated (without stuffing) in a sealed container for a couple of days.