I knew this recipe would push our respective comfort zones in many different ways. However, because we respect Yotam Ottolenghi so much and love his food, it just had to be done.
I hear you asking "why?". Good question. Well, you see, Yotam Ottolenghi seems to have the capacity to put combinations of flavours together that go from the unusual to the outrageous - yet of his recipes that we've tried, they always work. Bearing that in mind, his latest t.v. offering - where he travels the mediterranean cooking locally sourced food - had our jaws hanging in disbelief at the, frankly, gorgeous dishes he seemed to be creating out of what amounted to very little.
So if you put together the magic of Ottolenghi, with the mediterranean (one of our favourite styles of food) and economy - you can probably see how he's talking our language.
Now before I say anything else, let me say that I would have infinitely preferred to have had some fat pilchards (or any other type of fish) instead of the pork. However, because fish seems to have become more expensive than saffron just lately, we had to go for something cheaper - and wound up with the pork steaks.
As for why it would push our comfort zones, well, hubby isn't good with meat that is likely to be either fatty, or tough. So pork steaks cooked on the griddle pan aren't his first choice. I trimmed the majority of the fat from his, but the firmness of the texture turned out not to be to his liking. He loved the flavour, but not the texture. As for son and heir, well, I know that he generally dislikes having dressing on his salads. As the whole point of Fattoush is to present it with dressing, I reckoned this would be a challenge for him - and indeed I was right. However, he soldiered on and as the whole lot disappeared, I was hopeful. He commented that it was "okay, but I could have done without the dressing", so we have to be grateful for small mercies.
For me, my big challenge was going to be wet bread. If there's one thing that makes me want to heave - it's wet bread. I have some vague memory of a calamitous accident between a loaf of bread left too close to defrosting meat and an ensuing sandwich - but it's probably best we don't look too closely at that one. With this salad, you grill the pitta bread and break it into pieces, then scatter it through the salad (together with the juicy salad vegetables - alarm!) and cover the lot in a yoghurt/buttermilk dressing (double alarm!). So I was seriously crossing my fingers that I could get over the wet bread thing. Much to my surprise - and because the Fattoush has to be made and served immediately with no waiting - the pitta pieces remained largely crispy and robust, with no sogginess and there was absolutely nothing offputting about this salad whatsoever.
In fact, the Fattoush was what is commonly known as a screaming success with both myself and with hubby. As with a lot of Ottolenghi recipes - although this one is from Sami Tamimi's mother - it's the juxtaposition of the fresh herbs with the remainder of the ingredients that absolutely makes the dish. The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes, the acidity of the vine ripened larger tomatoes, the pepperiness and crunch of the radish along with the intensity of the spring onion, all soothed and made cosy by the creaminess of the yoghurt/buttermilk dressing and the robustness of the pitta. Flipping gorgeous.
Both son & heir and I really enjoyed the lime pork chops and I have to say that cooking them on the griddle pan made such a difference to the flavour. I can imagine they'd be nice cooked just plain "under the grill" (or broiler, if you're in the States), but the charring provided by the griddle pan was just the proverbial business.
Mind you, I still think that a lovely piece of fish would have been better.
LIME PORK CHOPS WITH FATTOUSH (serves 3)
3 pork chops, trimmed of the majority of their fat
3 limes, zested and juiced
olive or rapeseed oil
200g Greek yoghurt
100ml full fat milk
1 tsp lemon juice, plus 3 tbsp lemon juice
3 pitta bread
250g cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 large vine ripened tomato, cut into small cubes
100g radishes, sliced finely
200g cucumber (small ones, ideally), seeds removed, cut into small cubes
2 spring onions,thinly sliced
15g fresh mint, roughly chopped
20g parsley, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped and crushed
1 little gem lettuce, cut into strips (or a section of iceberg lettuce)
60ml olive or rapeseed oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1. Some hours before you'll be wanting them (in the morning is good) place the pork chops into the zest and juice of the limes, a dash of oil and season well. Leave them to marinade, covered, in the fridge.
2. When you are ready to make the meal, cook the pork chops on a griddle pan or barbecue for some 5-10 minutes on each side (depending on how thick they are) until cooked through. Place on a warmed plate, covered, to rest.
3. Into a small bowl, pour the milk and add the teaspoonful of lemon juice. Stir well and leave for 5-10 minutes. Then add the Greek yoghurt and mix well.
4. Grill the pitta bread on the griddle pan, so that you get the lovely charred markings. Leave to cool and break into rough pieces.
5. Into a huge bowl, add the tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, onions, mint, parsley, garlic and lettuce. Toss to combine.
6. Sprinkle in the pieces of toasted pitta bread and toss again.
7. Add the oil and vinegar to the yoghurt mix, season well and stir to combine. Then pour half onto the salad and toss, then add the remainder and toss again. The salad should be very well covered.
8. Serve the pork chops with the salad alongside.