Lebanese sfeeha or meat pies are served as part of the Lebanese mezze or as a main dish accompanied with plain yogurt dips. These crispy pies with their delicious meat filling are popular across bakeries in the Middle East.
For the dough: In a large bowl, mix 1 kg plain flour, 2 tbs instant powdered yeast, 3 tbs sugar, 1 tbs salt and ¼ cup olive or sunflower oil. Add 2 + 1/4 cups warm (NOT hot) whole milk and mix well. Knead the dough well. Set aside for an hour or until it doubles in size.
For the meat filling: Puree 4 tomatoes and 3 onions lightly in a blender. Move to a bowl. Add 500 gm of minced lamb (traditionally sfeeha are made with minced lamb, but beef mince is fine too), 1 tsp allspice powder, 1 tsp red chilli flakes and 1 tsp salt. Instead of all spice powder, you may add 1 tsp Baharat spice mix – the Lebanese 7 spice powder made and stored in advance (4 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tbsp allspice (or 1tbs star anise powder), 1 tbsp. cinnamon, 2 tbs crushed cloves, 3tbs cumin, 2 tbs coriander, 5 tbs mild paprika, 3-4 cardamoms and 1 tsp powdered nutmeg – use ONLY 1 tsp of this for the sfeeha) You may add 3 tbsp chopped cilantro, mint or parsley (optional) Mix everything well.
Strain the filling of the excess juice, else all that liquid will cause the sfeeha to fall apart while baking.
Preheat the oven.
When the dough has doubled in size, flour your hands and a counter top well. Break off the dough into balls, each roughly the size of a ping pong ball. Roll out into circles. Place a tablespoon of the meat filling in the centre of each circle. Shape into sfeeha – the classic way is to pinch the two opposing ends of the round dough, creating a square-shaped sfeeha – these are the common ones found in bakeries. The flower-shaped sfeeha – the other way – is to shape by crimping the edges around the filling, making small pleats as you go. Top each with pine nuts (optional) Whisk 2 eggs well and using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the sfeeha for a beautiful golden colour once baked.
Lightly grease two large baking trays with oil and place the sfeeha on those, without crowding the trays.
Bake for about 15 minutes at 200 degrees, until the sfeeha brown well.
These are typically served with a dollop of plain yogurt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top. Or served with a side salad like Fattoush.
They freeze well. Reheat them in an oven before serving.
By Christ & Co.