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097 lettuce aubergine shatta

Baby gem lettuce with burnt aubergine yoghurt, smacked cucumber and shatta 

This dish works well as a standalone starter or a side dish

Serving: Serves 4 generously, or 5–6


  • Baby gem lettuces (500g), bases trimmed
  • 1½ tablespoons shatta (red or green). Note: This needs to be made three days in advance - find the recipe here.
  • ½ teaspoon Urfa chilli flakes (or a small pinch of nigella seeds or black sesame seeds, as an alternative)
  • Salt and black pepper 

For the aubergine yoghurt

  • 2 large aubergines
  • 35g Greek-style yoghurt
  • ½ a garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1½ tablespoon tahini


For the smacked cucumber

  • 1 regular English (i.e. not a small Lebanese) cucumber, peeled, sliced in half lengthways and watery seeds removed
  • 25g parsley, roughly chopped
  • 25g mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ a garlic clove, roughly chopped 
  • 50ml olive oil


  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. Prepare the cucumber by placing each half on a chopping board, cut side facing down.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Slice each head of baby gem lengthways to make 8 long thin wedges (per lettuce).
  7. 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.
  8. Lightly sprinkle the wedges with salt and a grind of black pepper, then splatter over the aubergine yoghurt.
  9. Spoon over the cucumber, drizzle with the shatta, sprinkle over the chilli flakes and serve.

Recipe taken from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press)

Photography by Jenny Zarins 


Make all the elements well in advance: 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.