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makin’ fatayer

What, you may ask, is a fatayer (or fatayir)???

We first had fatayers in a little restaurant run by a Syrian woman while traveling.  The place was rather obscure from the outside, but trip advisor gave it a good rating, so we were game to give it a go.  We would much rather try something new and independently run than grab fast food.  Inside we were greeted with a casual, homey atmosphere with boxes of baklava and other goodies pre-packaged and ready to go.  Both the server and the owner chatted with us like we were old friends.

We love to try new flavours, so we ordered both meat and spinach fatayers.  Oh. My.  So delicious.  Fatayers are like a middle eastern hand pie–Lebanese, I believe.  The spinach fatayers were tangy and flavourful.  The meat pies were perfectly spiced. All of this for a great price.  My df girl fell head over heels, determined that we should learn how to make them at home.  The idea was solidified as we discovered on a recent trip that the restaurant is no longer there.  (Although its replacement is an Indian/Pakistani restaurant that we will need to try someday.)

As I researched making fatayers, there were many ways to fold them, so I determined to do it ‘properly’–at least to the best of my ability…which admittedly did not produce a perfectly beautiful fatayer.

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I searched Pinterest and found Chef in Disguise, which had recipes for the dough, spinach filling and meat filling and a yummy looking cheese filling, as well.  Be forewarned:  these do take a bit of time.  I was four hours in from beginning to end.

Now let’s begin at the beginning…the dough.

Fatayer Dough

As usual, I did cut some corners, because I am a lazy cook.  I used instant yeast, so no proofing was necessary.

Using a stand mixer equipped with dough hook, mix together:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

With mixer going, slowly add:

  • 1 cup of water

Then add:

  • 1/2 cup of yogurt
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • couple of shakes of salt

Slowly incorporate:

  • about 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • ‘knead’ with mixer until dough is smooth

Put a splash of oil in a bowl, turn dough to coat, and cover with a damp towel.  Allow to rise in a warm place (I have a proofing setting on my oven) for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Turn onto a floured surface and cut into egg-sized pieces.  Roll into rounds and add your filling.  Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden.

 

Meat Filling

I had some pre-cooked ground beef–gotta love big batch cooking with Costco-sized packages of meat!  I decided to make as many meat fatayer as the beef would fill.  I didn’t have some of the ingredients (like cardamom), so I made substitutions, and omitted others (like tahini).  I found this wonderful site, SPICEography, that explains how to substitute spices.  It was very informative and I’ve bookmarked it to study more.

I began by heating up the cast iron pan (my husband bought this Lodge pan as surprise while I was away) with a splash of olive oil.  I had cooked my ground beef with onion already, so I did not add more.  Obviously, you will begin by cooking this first, if you don’t have some ready like I did…

  • about a pound of ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped

Now to spice it up a bit!

  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • generous pinch of each: coriander and ginger (these two spices along with extra cinnamon replace cardamom)
  • generous 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Tahini (optional– sadly, I didn’t have any on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon labaneh, sour cream or greek yogurt (I used greek yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon fig balsamic vinegar (to replace pomegranate molasses, whatever that is)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried mint (which I did not have)

This smells fabulous!

Now it’s time to stuff it…place a spoonful of meat in the centre of a prepared dough disc.  Brush the edges with water or milk to help seal.  Draw up opposite sides of the circle. pinching together.  Then do the same between the pinched dough to for a square.  You can seal these up as far as you’d like.  I’ve seen them every where from entirely closed to mostly open.  I liked them mostly closed, but it did take me awhile to get a groove, so all of them were very different.

Place on a greased cookie sheet (I also used parchment–remember I’m lazy). Brush the tops with milk and let rest for 10 minutes or so, before popping into a preheated 450 degree oven.  Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

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I had lots of dough remaining after using up the meat filling, so I made some spinach filling, as well.  I had about half a 500 gram bag of frozen spinach.  I thawed it, and strained it very well.

Spinach Filling

Place 25o g thawed frozen spinach into a strainer placed over a bowl.  Let it drain, then press out as much liquid as you can.  You want the spinach to be as dry as possible.

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Finely chop half an onion.

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Add:

  • a tablespoons olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper, a few cranks
  • about a teaspoon of salt (it seems like a lot but it can’t be adjusted later–add a little at a time and taste it)
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (again add a little at a time and taste it–we like it quite tangy)

Time to stuff it…
Again, we will begin with a round of dough rolled from an egg-sized portion (you can, of course, make this larger or smaller if you prefer).  Brush a little water or milk on edges.  Pinch 2 ends first and then the third to form a pyramid.

Place on a greased cookie sheet (I also used parchment–remember I’m lazy). Brush the tops with milk and let rest for 10 minutes or so, before popping into a preheated 450 degree oven. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

 

I had a little dough left over, so I decided to make four cheese fatayer to finish it up.

Cheese Filling

Simply mix equal(ish) parts sharp cheddar with crumbled goat cheese. (I used maybe a half cup of cheddar and 1/4 cup of goat cheese for 4 pies).  Add a pinch of cumin or coriander.  This time I rolled my dough into an oval. Place a spoonful of cheese mixture down the centre.  Moisten ends.  Fold one end over to the right, and the other to the left.  The centre will be open.  Place on greased pan and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden.

Here’s the bounty:

I served it up with mushroom couscous and cauliflower with onion and cumin and topped with the leftover cheese mixture.  Not very colourful, but so delicious!  Leftover fatayers are just as good cold, but can easily be reheated.  We enjoyed them for a couple of days.  They will keep for a few days in the fridge without going hard or soggy.

I should mention that we had these on pi day (3.14–March 14).  While not a pie they are a hand pie.  So I think I get extra points. 🙂

 

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