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Middle Eastern Meat Pies


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These are not that obscure or unknown. We would normally find them at our local Lebanese American joint, usually fried, dry and brittle. Here is my version of these addictive little turovers that everyone loves.

The filling recipe and the dough recipe can be found here, in my EGCI class. However, some variation is needed:

-The meat filling: Once it is cooked and still warm, mix in a handful of finely chopped Italian parsley, one medioum chopped tomato and a couple large tablespoons of Labneh (drained yogurt cheese aka Greek yogurt). These additions make the differnece between a good filling and a great juicy flavorful one.

-The dough: add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the dough.

Instructions:

Heat oven to 375

roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Using a cookie cutter cut 3 inch circles of dough.

Fill the pies by putting one teaspoon of the filling in the center of each. Seal the pies by folding into half moon shapes and pressing the edges with a fork (hopefully the picture will help :smile:).

Lay the pies on a parchement or wax paper covered baking sheet. Using a knife or scissors, cut tiny slits in the top of the pies or else the steam might force them open.

Bake until golden brown and delicious.

Serve hot or warm, on their own or accompanied by a nice yogurt sauce. The sauce in the picture is made with drained yogurt, garlic, chives, cilantro and lemon juice.

Alternativly the pies can be fried instead of baked.

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Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Elie, thank you so much for this wonderful pictorial. The pies look absolutely delicious, especially the ones with the juices flowing out of the snipped slits!

We have a long weekend coming up and I would like to try & make these. Oooh, they look like they taste sooooo good! :wub:

Yetty CintaS

I am spaghetttti

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Ooh very nice! Really like the first picture with the cut rounds of pastry. I have a fiddly pastry phobia (traumatised by a shortcrust pastry experience) and am extremely impressed by Picture 2 - a one hand maneuver on the pastry and other on the camera!

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My gosh those look good! Do you think I could make them ahead and then reheat in the oven for a party?

Sure you can! Better yet, freeze on a baking sheet unbaked. Then remove and store in Ziplock batgs in the freezer sort of like raviolis. Then all you have to do is bake them staright from the freezer. They will work out great.

Shiewie - Thanks for the camera work compliments :smile:

Behemoth- The fried ones are great but like all fried things they do not keep well and have to be eaten fresh. These are much better than the fried ones over time. Also I usually fry the cheese stuffed ones instead of baking. Different prep for different items I guess.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Thanks for the tutorial and pictures Elie this looks fantastic!

Although we are talking meat pies here I am curious to know which ingredients you use and how you prepare your fillings when you make sambousek bil jibn - cheese filled sambousek or fatayer bil sbenagh - spinach filled fatayer.

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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Zeitoun-

We can discuss all manner of "sambousek" or "Fatayer", hence the subtitle.

For the cheese ones, ideally and that's what my grandmother uses exclusively, I like to use the fresh curd cheese known as Arisha. However, you really cannot buy this here easily and you might not want to make your own. An excellent substitute is crumbly Feta cheese mixed with a little Kashkaval or Greek Kesari (sp?) cheese or any other sharp melting cheese. I thought about trying a good dry ricotta or even cottage cheese but have not gotten to it yet. I mix in some cayenne, chopped onions, pepper, salt (unless the cheese is salty) and chopped parsley into the filling as well. These like I mentioned before I prefer fried, but baked is also good.

For the Spinach ones, I like chopped spinach (duh! :smile:), chopped walnuts or pecans, pinenuts, a good doze of pomegranate molasses, salt, and plenty of black pepper. These are usually formed into traingular shapes, which I am sure you know, and baked.

What do you prefer?

Elie

edit: typo

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Zeitoun-

We can discuss all manner of "sambousek" or "Fatayer", hence the subtitle.

For the cheese ones, ideally and that's what my grandmother uses exclusively, I like to use the fresh curd cheese known as Arisha. However, you really cannot buy this here easily and you might not want to make your own. An excellent substitute is crumbly Feta cheese mixed with a little Kashkaval or Greek Kesari (sp?) cheese or any other sharp melting cheese. I thought about trying a good dry ricotta or even cottage cheese but have not gotten to it yet. I mix in some cayenne, chopped onions, pepper, salt (unless the cheese is salty) and chopped parsley into the filling as well. These like I mentioned before I prefer fried, but baked is also good.

For the Spinach ones, I like chopped spinach (duh! :smile:), chopped walnuts or pecans, pinenuts, a good doze of pomegranate molasses, salt, and plenty of black pepper. These are usually formed into traingular shapes, which I am sure you know, and baked.

What do you prefer?

Elie

edit: typo

Interesting variations you have there, i am not sure i had Arisha in sambousek or may be i did and i just didn't know it, is it standard in lebanon? I always thought it was feta mixed with something else.

When we did cheese sambousek at home, my father used to add a french touch to it by mixing feta and blue cheese (bleu d'auvergne or roquefort) together, along with onions, parsley, salt and pepper of course. There is something about blue and feta cheese that when they are mixed together blends so well, he actually did the same thing with "raq'aq'at" or "rakakat" the fried cheese stuffed fillo rolls. I personally also like to moisten my crumbled cheese with a little bit of olive oil just to make the flavors rounder before they are baked.

For spinach ones I use rough chopped spinach (not too much i like it a little stringy actually), toasted pinenuts, finely minced onion, pomagranate molasses, salt pepper and to add a little more tanginess (of course :smile:) a light sprinkle of sumac and drops of either lemon or white wine vinegar.

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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If I had to guess I would say using Arisha is not the standard in Lebanon. It is probably a northern variation and the way it is done at my house. I would imagine blue cheese would make and amazing pie!

I forgot to mention sumac. I do add some as well to my spinach filling.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Foodman-

Your kefta can easily be Algerian. The meat filling minus the yoghurt could be Algerian as well. There's alot of crossover, with a few regional variations between the middle-east and north africa. (for obvious reasons :biggrin: )

My wife is planning on using your falafel recipe. I don't have a personal recipe for it, we don't eat in Algeria. I think it got as far as Egypt, maybe Libya.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

My wife and I made some lahm b'ajin this past week end, we followed Elie's instructions posted in this thread and in the eGCI class. The filling came out perfectly however I need some clarification on the dough making.

The question might sound stupid but i'll ask anyway!! Is the dough used for lahm b'ajin or fatayer the same used for bread (as described in the eGCI class) with olive oil added? We hesitated before doing this because for some reason we thought that the inclusion of yeast was odd for a lahm b'ajin dough.

We ended up using an empanada dough recipe which we were frankly not really happy with. I am clearly missing the point somewhere!!

We are planning to try again this week end and hope to get it right this time :smile:!

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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  • 4 weeks later...

Q for the Lebanese: is fatir/fatayir interchangeable with sanmbousek, etc.? In Egypt, a fatir is an open-face pizza-like thing, with very flaky, multi-layer dough that's a little chewy. A single-serving one is pretty big, maybe 6 or 7 inches with tons of toppings. There's usually a couple of savory options, with crumbly cheese and ground meat and the like, and then the vastly preferable sweet version, with coconut flakes, more cheese, apricot jam and nuts. Shamelessly, I'd always order a token small savory one, then a big sweet one.

I'm blanking on on what the little turnovers are called in Egypt, but it might be sambousek.

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

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My wife and I made some lahm b'ajin this past week end, we followed Elie's instructions posted in this thread and in the eGCI class.  The filling came out perfectly however I need some clarification on the dough making. 

The question might sound stupid but i'll ask anyway!!  Is the dough used for lahm b'ajin or fatayer the same used for bread (as described in the eGCI class) with olive oil added? We hesitated before doing this because for some reason we thought that the inclusion of yeast was odd for a lahm b'ajin dough. 

We ended up using an empanada dough recipe which we were frankly not really happy with.  I am clearly missing the point somewhere!!

We are planning to try again this week end and hope to get it right this time  :smile:!

Zeitoun, you sould've gone with your initial instinct. Yes, the dough is more or less the same but with extra olive oil. The inclusion of yeast in these pies is a must, both for taste and for texture. Otherwise it is an empanada :biggrin: .

Zora- I use the term fatayir for the open-faced pies you mention, and it can also be used for the turnovers. However the term sambousek is only used to refer to the turnovers or the triangular shaped spinach pies. This is by no means universal, but I have never heard anyone refer to the open-faced pies as Sambousek. Does this make any sense?

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Zeitoun, you sould've gone with your initial instinct. Yes, the dough is more or less the same but with extra olive oil. The inclusion of yeast in these pies is a must, both for taste and for texture. Otherwise it is an empanada  :biggrin: .

Ok, I'll try again this week end and report back. Thanks.

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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YummY, YummY..good for the TummY!!..

At what point do I add olive oil to the dough (if im following the bread recipe)

Cant wait t o try it ..looks deeeeeliciousssss!!!!!! :rolleyes:

Add it with the water. And don't forget to report back.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Some clarifications and in fact makes visual recognition easier:

1- Sambousek: Deep fried in oil (originally in Samneh) (usually minced meat and pine kernels) (closed moon crescent pies).

2- Fatayer: Baked in oven (usually Spinach) (closed triangular pies).

3- Rakayek: Fried in oil (usually cheese) (closed cylindrical pies).

4- Sfiha: Baked brushed with Samneh/butter (usually meat) (open squarish pies)

5- Manakeesh/Lahm bel Ajin: Baked (open circular pies).

Of course, different resturants or Chefs might decide to have Fatayer shapes with meat or Spinach or cheese and so on for Sambousek/Burek...etc

But a purist definition is given above.

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Some clarifications and in fact makes visual recognition easier:

1- Sambousek: Deep fried in oil (originally in Samneh) (usually minced meat and pine kernels) (closed moon crescent pies).

2- Fatayer: Baked in oven (usually Spinach) (closed triangular pies).

3- Rakayek: Fried in oil (usually cheese) (closed cylindrical pies).

4- Sfiha: Baked brushed with Samneh/butter (usually meat) (open squarish pies)

5- Manakeesh/Lahm bel Ajin: Baked (open circular pies).

Of course, different resturants or Chefs might decide to have Fatayer shapes with meat or Spinach or cheese and so on for Sambousek/Burek...etc

But a purist definition is given above.

Almass-

Thank you for the clear distinction between each type.

What is the reference for these definitions? Is it from your personal experience, or from research? I am curious.

Also I would like to add, that the Rakayek as I know them are made using phylo dough not yeast dough like all the rest of them. Is that your understanding as well?

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Thank you for the clear distinction between each type.

What is the reference for these definitions? Is it from your personal experience, or from research? I am curious.

I suppose it is personal experience cross checked with available data.
Also I would like to add, that the Rakayek as I know them are made using phylo dough not yeast dough like all the rest of them. Is that your understanding as well?

Yes and No.

Nowadays Rakayek are made with ready made Phyllo pastry. However if my memory serves me right, Rakayek were a derivative of Baklawa pastry which in fact is Phyllo but with Samneh instead of oil (fat is only needed in minute quantity to enable long strand gluten formation). The origin of Baklawa is Assyrian 8th century B.C. and reclaimed by Turkey. But the term Phyllo which in fact means "leaf" in Greek simply complicates matters even more. But the historical fact is that Baklawa is of Assyrian origin.

Today the masters of Baklawa are in Lebanon and have just been outwitted in the last few years by Syria who has produced the lightest and more savoury version to date made available in the smallest size you can imagine.

We are talking 40mm x 12mm.

It is interesting to note that Sfiha made of the same Baklawa/Phyllo pastry is different from the ordinary dough Sfiha (yeast) and hence refered to as either Sfiha Baalbakieh or Sfiha Hamaouieh basking in Samneh which of course is different from Sfiha Traboulsieh which again is different from the Egyptian variety which is not even worth mentioning to come thinking of it.

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