Lebanese meat pies


RECIPE: My manager was leaving and I gave him the choice of sweet or savoury. Savoury it was. Rather than make meat pies or in fact anything with puff pastry, as I’ve done that a few times now, I found this recipe for Lebanese meat pies that seemed interesting. I didn’t alter the recipe.

PREPARATION: The optimum temperature for the water you add to the yeast is 38 degrees celcius (100F). This will be warm enough to ‘wake up’ the yeast but not so warm it will kill it. When you add all the dry ingredients and start kneading the dough will be sticky at first. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and you have a clean working area with no bits of dough left (kneading the dough should pick up all the bits). I used the recipe’s suggested fast track process for proofing the dough and it was successful but just slightly dried out the outside, so it might have been better if I’d sprayed the oven with some water before putting the dough in there to keep the humidity higher. Working with the dough was pretty easy. I shaped it out with my hands but then used a rolling pin to finish them off to an even thickness. Avoid rolling the dough too thin because it didn’t stick together as well into the star corners when it was thin. I also went along with the recipe’s suggestion of using dried milk paste instead of egg, and it worked really well and I think much less wasteful.

IMPRESSION: The tahini, molasses, mint and labaneh give these meat pies a great taste. They made a nice change from traditional meat pies and everyone enjoyed them. The cases are much simpler than trying to roll and shape and blind bake individual pastry cases and were a really nice texture.

Recipe from Chef in Disguise

Meat pies (sfeeha)

2 cups (474g) flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
3/4 cup (180ml) water

500 grams ground beef
1 medium onion chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon (15ml) Tahini (optional)
1 tablespoon (15ml) labaneh (you can replace it with sour cream)
1  tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon dried mint

Proof the yeast by mixing the yeast, sugar and water and waiting for the yeast to foam and bubble (if it doesn’t bubble you need to discard it and start over with new yeast). In a bowl whisk together the flour and salt till combined. Add the oil and then rub it into the flour mix with your fingertips. Add the water/ yeast mixture and knead the dough until it forms a smooth soft ball that doesn’t stick to your hands. Cover a bowl with a little olive oil, place your dough in it and cover the dough with a clean towel or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place until it doubles in size (if you are short on time, heat your oven to 200 C and place the rack in the middle. Turn it off. Place a clean towel on the rack and place the bowl with your covered dough on the towel and leave it in the closed oven. It will double in size in 10-15 minutes).

Cut the dough into egg sized balls and cover them with a clean towel and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.

To make the stuffing saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the ground beef and spices and stir until it is half done. Add the molasses, tahini, labaneh and mint. Stir to combine.

To assemble the sfeeha, oil your baking sheets. Centre your oven rack. Heat your oven to 270 C (or the highest setting or temperature your oven can get to). Roll the dough ball into a small circle, place the stuffing in the centre. Wet 1 cm of the dough circumference with water using a brush or your finger. Take two sides of the dough circle and seal them together by pinching them between your finger and thumb. Repeat that with the other sides of the circle until you get 4 corners. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and allow to rest for 10 minutes. If you are making a big amount make sure you cover the meat pies with a clean cloth while they are resting or the surface will dry and crack once you bake them.

When the whole amount is ready, re-pinch the sealed dough margins together to make sure they are sealed tight. Brush the dough with some powdered milk dissolved in a little water (you want it to be of thick consistency). You can use an egg wash but I personally hate the smell of eggs that the egg wash leaves.

Bake your meat pies for 10 minutes or until the under side is golden. (They will puff up as they bake so don’t place them too close to each other on the baking sheet).Place them under the broiler until the tops are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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