Ftat is a thin flat-bread, made of a simple mix of flour and water and cooked on a hot flat surface. This is the Ftat recipe from the Western city of Misurata. An ingenious technique makes them twice as thin with half the effort: a mixture of cornflour and olive oil is used to ‘sandwich’ two pieces of ftat dough, the sandwich is thinned as much as possible and then cooked, the heat separating out the two pieces of Ftat.
Ftat literally means small pieces, and this bread is often torn up and covered with different soups or stews, to make a variety of fatta meals. Every Arab country has multiple Tharid or Fatta dishes using torn up bread as a base. In the South of the country Fatta dishes are made with leavened Tanoor bread, while the East of Libya has a bread so thin its transparent, which is used to make Mathruda (a sweet-and-sour fatta with meat and dates). Ftat is specially suited for Fatta meals as it holds up well.
Ftat are not always torn up! They are also enjoyed whole with different fillings, the most popular being Ejja (thick omlettes, the Arabic for Frittata/Tortilla). A slice of spicy herb and potato Ejja wrapped in Ftat is the perfect combination, and is especially popular in Ramadan. Plain Ftat are also served with tea alongside other kinds of Libyan bread.
Makes about 20 Ftat
750g fine flour
1/2 litre water (you may need more)
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
more olive oil to brush the dough
more olive oil to brush the dough
5-6 tablespoons cornflour (you need a smooth thick consistency)
50 ml olive oil
For the dough, combine the flour, salt and olive oil and gradually add water till you have a soft but not sticky dough. Knead well, smooth olive oil over the dough then cover with cling film. Leave to rest for at least an hour.
Add olive oil to the cornflour for the paste.
Mix the cornflour and olive oil to a smooth paste, leave for 10 minutes and it should thicken, add more cornflour if needed.
After having left the dough to rest, knead again and then, keeping your hands well-oiled, take a piece of dough and squeeze your fist around it to form balls about the size of a ping-pong ball. Cover with cling film and leave to rest for half an hour. Flatten the balls by hand, not to thin them out but just to get a larger surface area. Now spread about one teaspoon of the cornflour paste thinly on one piece and cover with the second. do the same for the other pieces.
Cover and leave to rest for at least another hour. Pinch the edges of the sandwich, trapping the paste inside.
The sandwich should now have a little raised dome in the centre, with the paste in it.
Start spreading the ftat out. You can use a dinner plate and your hands. This helps you keep the round shape. Oil a large dinner plate, place a ftat ‘sandwich’ in the centre, brush with olive oil and using the fingers of one hand stretch and spread out gently to form the shape above.
Place the ftat on a hot surface to cook, using only medium heat. A hot flatplate (e.g pizza maker) is ideal, but really any old frying pan is fine as you can see above.
Turn after few second then sprinkle or brush the upper surface with olive oil. Once cooked the ftat will seperate easily into two, turn each one of these ftat pieces uncooked side downward for a few seconds, each (seperately)
Then place both back in the pan in the position above to sear the edges. It is important to wrap fatat in towel as soon as you remove it from the pan to keep it soft and warm. Fatat must be eaten warm, whether freshly made or warmed up in a frying pan just before serving. They keep best wrapped in foil in the fridge. It can be stored for one week in the fridge in an airtight container.