After my best friend, Shannon, first moved back home after our fun ‘snowboard/ski bunny’ post-college years slacking off in Breckenridge, Colorado, I visited her and she took me to eat at a place with a cuisine I had never eaten before – Lebanese. We went to Lebanese Taverna in Arlington, VA, one of six locations of this popular restaurant. After we were seated, I remember reading the history of the family-owned place on the back of their menu. It brought a tear to my eye. Ok, I’m exaggerating slightly, but I definitely started liking the place before I even ate the food.
The owners, the Abi-Najm family, had a really cute ‘coming-to-America/America the land of opportunity’ story that is often unheard of these days. They fled Lebanon on a cargo ship during the civil war with only a few belongings. In 1976, they settled in Arlington and by 1979 they bought a small pizza place called Athenian Taverna and had only enough money to replace half the sign, and the first Lebanese Taverna was born.
Warms your heart, right? Maybe makes you reconsider your opinions on the current immigration policy, huh? Maybe it’s just me?
Anyways, that night I ate the most delicious and different meal. The dish was called Fatteh Djaje – seasoned, shredded chicken with crispy pita bread, smothered in a yogurt sauce and (my favorite part) sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Every time I visited Shannon, I asked if we could go to Lebanese Taverna so I could satisfy my craving.
After the second time dining there, I knew I had to try to find a recipe to recreate the dish. This was 1999 and the internet was shockingly different than it is today. After much searching, I found something that slightly resembled it, but I knew I would have to get creative and figure it out based on my memory of the dish at the restaurant.
To this day, the Lebanese Taverna’s menu includes Fatteh Djaje (with chicken) and Fatteh Blahmeh (with lamb). Here is how the Fatteh Blahmeh is described on their menu:
Pretty great description for a pretty amazing meal. I know many of you may be scared of this recipe, but if you try it once, I guarantee you’ll be hooked. Since 1999 (and one marriage to an Englishman later), I’ve grown to love lamb and eat a decent amount of it, so this recipe will be the lamb version. Feel free to substitute the lamb for chicken if you’re not a lamb eater. If you like the taste of Moroccan spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, etc.), you’ll love this meal.
LEBANESE SPICED LAMB OVER CRISPY PITA SMOTHERED WITH A GARLIC-YOGURT POMEGRANATE SAUCE (FATTEH BLAHMEH)
For the Lamb
- 3 lbs lamb for stew (small bits still on the bone)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 two to three inch stick of cinnamon
- 5 cloves
- 1/2 of nutmeg (or about 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg if you must)
- 2-3 cups of chicken stock
- pinch of salt
- 1 can of chickpeas
For the Yogurt Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups of plain yogurt, strained
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed into a paste
- some mint leaves, roughly chopped
- a squeeze of lemon (Optional: zest of half of lemon)
Garnish and Bottom Layer:
- 3-4 pita bread, sliced through the middle (so they are thin), cut into triangles and toasted till crispy
- 1/4 cup of toasted pine-nuts
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (if seasonally available)
- some roughly chopped mint
What to do:
- Season your lamb with some kosher salt, a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon. Heat up a small bit of olive oil in your pressure cooker. Over medium heat, sear your lamb until brown – about 1 1/2 minutes per side. ***NOTE: You could also slow cook the lamb in your slow cooker for 5-6 hours during the work day and still get that wonderful, falling-off-the-bone thing.
- Add your onions and garlic to the pressure cooker and using the leftover oil, saute briefly, stirring around the meat to make some room for the onions/garlic to cook.
- Make a bouquet garni (if you have cheesecloth or do what I did in a bind tonight – get a misfit (CLEAN!!) sock, cut it, wrap your spices in it and tie with kitchen twine) with the cinnamon stick, nutmeg half and cloves.
- After another 30 seconds or so, add your stock. Throw in your bouquet garni. Bring to a boil and follow your pressure cooker directions. Cook in pressure for 30-35 minutes.
- While that’s cooking, mix your strained yogurt with the garlic paste, chopped mint, squeeze of lemon and lemon zest. Stir and let sit so the flavors meld.
- Slice your pita and toast in the oven for about 4-5 minutes at 385 degrees till crispy. (OPTIONAL: Traditionally, the pita should be fried in butter for a more intense taste).
- If you have a pomegranate, slice in half and remove seeds. It’s easier to submerge it in water and take seeds out that way – the little bits of sinew will separate from the seeds more easily. Strain so you just have the seeds.
- When lamb is finished cooking in the pressure cooker/slowcooker, using tongs, remove lamb only out of the sauce and put in bowl. Allow to cool for a few moments.
- Meanwhile, turn heat on medium to reduce the sauce just a bit more – about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add the drained chickpeas and let simmer for another 3-4 minutes.
- With two forks (or your fingers!), remove the bones from the lamb meat and shred the lamb meat. It should be super tender and fall off the bone easily.
- Assemble your dish. Put 4-5 toasted/fried pita triangles on the bottom of your dish. Using a large spoon, spoon some chickpeas with sauce over the crispy pita bread. You want a decent layer of chickpeas. Next, top the chickpeas with some shredded lamb. Finally, add a layer of yogurt and top with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts and chopped mint. Dig in!
CHECK OUT SOME OTHER PRESSURE COOKER RECIPES:
- WINE-BRAISED LAMB SHANKS WITH ROSEMARY AND THYME IN PRESSURE COOKER
- LEMONGRASS BEEF SHORTRIBS
- KOREAN-STYLE PORK RIBS IN PRESSURE COOKER
17 thoughts on “Lebanese Food in a Small Brooklyn Kitchen – A Restaurant Remake of Fatteh Blahmeh”
Hey! Thanks for visiting my blog — this version of the fetteh looks delicious — I tried it with chicken but never with lamb before — I will definitely have to give it a try someday. I love Lebanese Taverna — I visited the restaurant in DC and VA all the time when I lived in Washington. I love their mezzes.
Loving your site — this is the first time for me to visit and I’ll definitely be back! 🙂
WOW! This is amazing. You made my Friday night. This has to be one of my all time favorite dishes. I used to live in DC, and can no longer get Lebanese food where I live. When I made this dish, it was like I back at the Lebanese Taverna. The perfume that permeates the house is fantastic. THANK YOU!
Thank you, thank you, thank you brittany. this dish was made so long ago before anyone even looked at our blog and, to this day, it remains one of my favorites. we had no recipe but only our memory of the dish we ate. i thank you for trying it so you can prove that the recipe was good! i need to make this again soon… it’s healthy and it’s delicious.
thank you, brittany and please stop by again!!
amy and jonny 🙂
Thank you Amy for posting this wonderful recipe. I went to Lebanese Taverna a few days ago with my husband and tried Fatteh Blahmeh for the first time, and loved it. Tonight I tried your recipe and it was a phenomenal success! You got it 100%, it tasted exactly like the other night in the restaurant. Thank you again!!
you don’t know how happy your comment made me! this dish is one of my faves and I haven’t made it in a long time… thanks for the reminder! and thank you for your comment. i’m glad you enjoyed it!! and i’m even more happy my recipe is close…
Is a pressure cooker completely necessary for this recipe? I don’t have one, and I know it’d be another kitchen gadget I never use… like that rice cooker I was given in 2003 and have never once plugged in. But I’m DESPERATE for some fatteh, and your recipe sounds amazing. Thanks for any tips 🙂
We are so sorry to get back to you so late – we had access to your email but realized it wouldn’t work so we couldn’t email you directly about this. We were on vacation until today but, if you are still interested, I think you could do this w/o a pressure cooker – easily. The pressure cooker is only used b/c it is super fast to getting that fall-off-the-bone meat thing w/o braising for hours. I actually highly (HIGHLY) recommend buying a pressure cooker b/c it is extremely versatile. But, if you would prefer to not get one, then just braise the meat on a simmer for about 4 hours (or more) with the lid on. I also list in the recipe you could put it in a slow cooker if you have one of those. The point is, you need to get this meat tender. It needs to be able to shred and in order for a cut like stewing meat to be tender, it needs alot of cooking to break it down. Hope this helps! Feel free to email us w/ any other questions – firstname.lastname@example.org
This lamb recipe looks incredible. I reckon I”ll give it a whirl next week. Thank you for sharing.
This was my favourite dish at Lebanese Taverna when I lived in Arlington and Alexandria, then 5 years ago I met my husband (also a Brit) married him in Breckendridge, CO. and moved to London – I’ve been subconsciously craving this for 3 years now, and was obviously guided to your blog! Thanks for this, making it tonight – mmmmmm.
It’s been 15 years since I’ve been to the Taverna in Arlington – and the chicken version is what I Always got when visiting friends in D.C. I did a search with the ingredients from memory and my first result brought me to your site. Thank you, thank you! I can’t wait to make it.
Oh wow, I fell in love with a similar dish, seems like there is very little difference. I had it photographed on my blog and they called it Fatteh Moussaka. I tried making something at home but so far ended up effectively making a moussaka with pomegranate seeds on top (it was delicious but not quite what I was looking for). This sounds more like it! I must try this. I’ve pinned it for now
It’s not just a delicious dish, it is also so eye catching! I tried mine around Valentines day – the pomegranate seeds were really fresh and it was difficult to capture their jewel-like quality on my phone, but that’s how they looked! Thanks for sharing! 🙂