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Sfeeha (Meat pies)

There are so many dough recipes out there and everyone swears by theirs. I have a few recipes I like to rotate, but this one is fail-proof and super quick.

I was always a little intimidated or hesitant to make dough and I know I am not alone in this. I absolutely love eating fatayer, or Middle Eastern pasties, but would have them at relatives' and friends' homes rather than make them myself. This past year, I decided to bite the bullet and learn to make them myself, and let me tell you, they really aren't as scary as I thought they were!

There are so many dough recipes out there and everyone swears by theirs. I have a few recipes I like to rotate, but this one is fail-proof and super quick. It is well-known in the Middle East and is called the 10-minute dough. It took me years to try because I wasn't convinced that you could make good dough in 10 minutes, but guess what? You can! I do like to leave it to rest while I make my fillings, so technically it takes a little more than 10 minutes, but it is so easy you could have amazing pastries on the table within an hour!

Today I am making sfeeha, or as some call it, lahm bi ajeen, which literally translates to meat in dough. Many make sfeeha into little squares, but I prefer the open-faced pizza version because I like the meat to dough ratio better. Versions are made all across the Levant, and there are similar pastries made in Turkey and Armenia. It has even become popular in Brazil, where it is known as esfiha, brought over by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants.

There are so many versions of the meat mixture, but this is my mother-in-law's version and I absolutely love it! The creaminess of the labneh, which you could replace with sour cream or Greek yogurt, along with the sharpness of the tahini and tanginess of the pomegranate molasses works together perfectly. I love how the pomegranate molasses caramelises around the edges and adds another dimension to the flavour.

The dough is pretty straightforward, you just want to make sure that the water is warm, not hot so it doesn't kill your yeast. As for the meat, you can use lamb, beef, or a mix of both, but you don't want the fat content to be too high so you don't end up with soggy dough. I also like to put my mixture in a sieve to get rid of any excess liquid. Bake these in a hot oven and serve alongside some yogurt. Once you've seen how easy this is to make, you'll be having sfeeha morning, noon and night!

Ingredients

Makes about 30 fatayer

Dough

Base

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp instant yeast

1 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

2 tbsp milk powder

2 cups warm water

To Knead

3 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup olive oil

Filling

250 g minced meat

3-4 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 ½ tbsp tahini paste

2-3 tbsp labneh

salt and pepper to taste

pine nuts for garnish (before baking)

Instructions:

  1. To make the dough, mix together 2 cups of flour with the yeast, sugar, salt, milk powder and water in a large bowl. Whisk together until completely incorporated. It will be a runny mixture. Cover and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Once the dough base has risen, 10-15 minutes later, it should look bubbly and doubled in size. Add the remaining 3 cups of flour and olive oil and knead until it is smooth. If it is too sticky, add some flour while kneading and if it is too dry, add a little bit more oil. Leave to rest while you make your filling.
  3. Mix together the filling ingredients until fully incorporated. To taste, I like to add a tablespoon to a small pan and cook. Taste the mixture once cooked and adjust seasoning to your liking. Place in a sieve to remove any excess liquid and to avoid soggy dough.
  4. Divide the dough into equally sized balls. Roll out into circles on a well-floured surface, like mini pizzas, and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mixture onto the dough and spread with the back of a spoon in an even layer. Sprinkle with pine nuts.
  5. Bake on 200 C (180 C fan) for 10-15 minutes or until the dough is golden and the meat is cooked. Garnish with some pomegranate seeds if you like and serve with a side of yogurt. Enjoy!

ANOTHER RECIPE: Muhalabiya with figs

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