I am always excited to cook, especially when it entails sharing it with others. Cooking to me includes creativity, challenge, and relaxation. Somehow it brings the mind to the task at hand and the result is a beautiful dish concocted from scratch, and somehow it is a way to share the pleasure taken in making it with the people tasting it.
It makes me remember my PR classes in university, where we were taught the importance of food in creating a bond with a business counterpart over dinner or lunch. Food does create bonds, some of the best I would say. Technically, it is one of the safest subjects to tackle, it offends no one and most of all it is always interesting. It teaches about culture and history through flavors and textures.
I think this is enough musing about food and onto the real deal.
Why Sfiha for this potluck? First these little pies, along with Fatayer and some other varieties, are the heart of a lot of Lebanese parties/get-togethers. Second, Clint’s colleague is a big fan of meat (big surprise that a man loves meat huh?) so it was intuitive to choose something that had meat in it.
Sfiha, Samboussik and Lahm b’Aajeen (literally meat in dough) are the meat varieties of these little pies. They include everything from Zaatar (thyme mixture), to cheese, to Labneh, and Kishk (a yogurt-based product turned into a powder and used in a variety of dishes – Read about it here-).
Sfiha is pretty easy to prepare. All you need is a batch of dough and the meat filling. Then you bake it till golden and you can enjoy it hot or cold, with a twist of lemon or some plain yogurt on the side.
The dough recipe we used, we got from here and we made a double batch. I am copying it for convenience.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup water
- In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Add oil and begin to knead dough. Once oil is absorbed, add warm water. Knead into an elastic dough.
- Shape dough into 2 inch diameter balls. Cover and set aside.
Now, the filling: you can prepare it while the dough is resting, or if you want you can prepare it a day ahead and refrigerate it. You can use lamb or beef, but we used beef.
- 200 g (about ½ lb) ground meat
- ½ small onion
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- Salt, pepper
- Chop the onion finely.
- Sauté the meat (you can use olive oil, but I just used the fat from the meat for that purpose). When lightly browned add the onion and sauté till translucent.
- Add the cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper. Add the pine nuts and stir and turn the heat off.
- Assemble the Sfiha by making circles of dough 4 inches in diameter, adding about 1 Tbsp of the mixture in the center, and pinching the dough to form a squared pouch with the top open. Or for an easier assembly, you can just spread the mixture on the circle like you do with pizza toppings or make little calzone.
- Bake in the oven at 450° F (232°C) till lightly golden.