Friday feeling: fatayah

Parcels of spinach, cheese and pine nuts—a traditional Lebanese breakfast treat

It’s a term anyone who follows chefs and food writers on social media—which is presumably you, dear reader—will be familiar with: #fridgeforage. The remnants of earlier meals appear magicked into a feast worthy of a prince—or, in the case of us mere mortals, leftovers bulked out with pasta (blanketed with all forgiving cheddar) or smothered with pastry in a ‘leftovers pie’.

The Lebanese, says Majd of Arabica, favour the latter option—but with a pastry tradition that encompasses sfeeha, sambusak and of course baklava, the results prove infinitely more sophisticated. Their version of leftovers pie, fatayah, is a beautiful, samosa-like triangle of pastry, containing whatever delicacies the fridge has to offer that morning. “Back home, we have potato, vegetables, lamb, ricotta—anything that’s there, really,” laughs Majd.

Enriched with ricotta
In Britain you’ll often see fatayah served as snacks or as part of a mezze, but in Lebanon they are strictly a breakfast item: “We have them every single morning.” It was still just about morning when we came to Arabica’s fatayah—but with our porridge many hours behind us, this was more elevenses than it was breakfast. Neither did this fatayah comprise leftovers—Arabica being a restaurant rather than a Beirut household—but rather a delicate, plump combination of spinach, sumac and pine nuts, moistened and enriched by ricotta cheese.

The pastry is simple—“no milk, just water, flour, yeast and olive oil,” says Majd—making for a crisp, flaky entry into the filling which, fresh off the stall, is warm and enlivening. The sumac is subtle, its citrus notes pulling the cheese and spinach together, the pine nuts adding a yielding crunch and sweet-savoury kick. Majd recommends mint tea—English breakfast isn’t the fatayah’s friend—on a sunny morning, to enjoy while scrolling Instagram’s finest #fridgeforage inspired meals.