Street food is arguably the best food in every country. It is a way to experience the culture like a local and it is one of my favourite ways to discover any country I visit. When I first moved to Saudi Arabia, I was keen on trying all of the street foods I could find and Farmoza became a quick favourite. These delicious parcels stuffed with aromatic meat are found on carts and in little shops around the country. They are usually sold with a steamed version, called Mantu, which is very similar to a type of dumpling called Manti made across Asia, the Caucasus, the Balkans and Afghanistan. One of my favourite snacks was a portion of baked Farmoza and steamed Mantu, sprinkled with lots of hot sauce! My mouth is watering just thinking about this!
It is believed that these foods, along with many others, were brought with the Afghan migrants and have become a part of the Saudi street food culture, along with many other popular street foods, such as the delicious bread Tameez and Bukhari rice. While the dough is usually made from scratch in Saudi Arabia, many households use puff pastry as a shortcut for a quick and easy meal and I have to say, it is definitely a good alternative and makes these pastries one of my go-to lunchbox meals for the kids.
The main flavour of this dish comes from the filling; it is important to use good quality ingredients because they are few and you want each one to shine. I like using beef in mine, as it has a milder flavour and works well with the spices, but feel free to use lamb. It is important that the filling isn't dry, but also not too wet so you don't end up with soggy pastry, because that is probably the worst thing when it comes to puff pastry. There is definitely a debate when it comes to cooking minced meat and onions, with some cooking the onions first and others the meat first. I personally like to brown my meat first and cook it at least halfway through before adding the onions because sometimes the meat releases a lot of liquid that I don't necessarily want, so this gives me the chance to drain it before adding anything to it. Once the meat is nice and browned, add in the rest of the ingredients, leaving the coriander to the end so it doesn't wilt.
Another important tip is to allow the filling to cool down completely before stuffing the puff pastry to avoid the pastry melting and becoming hard to work with, as well as to avoid a soggy pastry. Roll them out slightly and once filled, you can fold these the way you like, but they are traditionally rectangular. Place them on a baking sheet and stick them in the fridge for at least 10-15 minutes so the butter can re-solidify and your puff pastry can puff up when baked. Bake until nice and golden and enjoy these delicious little parcels.
400 g minced meat (beef or lamb)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
400 g puff pastry
Milk or egg wash for brushing
Black sesame seeds for garnish
- To make the filling, heat some olive oil in a frying pan and brown the meat. Once browned, remove any excess liquid from the meat, then add the onions and garlic and sauté. Add a bit more olive oil if needed. Once the onions are soft, add the spices and mix together well. Cook for a minute then turn off the heat and mix in the fresh coriander. Set aside to cool.
- Once your filling has cooled, roll out your puff pastry. I like to use puff pastry squares. I cut them in half and rolled them out slightly. If you do not have the squares, you can use the sheets and cut them into squares. Roll out the dough, but not too thin, and add some filling. Fold over both sides then the top and the bottom, to make a rectangle shape. Place on a baking sheet.
- Once you've made all of your farmozas, place them in the fridge for about 10 minutes to allow the dough to chill and the butter to solidify once again. This will give you a nice and puffy pastry.
- Brush with milk or egg wash and sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top. Bake at 200 C (180 C for fan assisted ovens) for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. I like to eat mine with hot sauce. Enjoy!