I very well remember the days of my tender youth – when we were living the refugee life in a deserted church. Our neighbours built an oven, from stone and clay, and they would let us use it when asked. Some of the Sfeehas that mother baked in that oven were somewhat ash-gritty, but they were certainly a much appreciated treat!
Sfeeha freezes quite nicely. It is great as finger food, or to take with you on a picnic.
20 mL (4 tsp) yeast
5 mL (1 tsp) sugar
300 mL (1 1/4 cup) lukewarm water
175 mL (2/3 cup) butter
875 mL (3 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
7 mL (1 1/2 tsp) salt
45 mL (3 tbsp) vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
1 kg (2 pounds) diced lamb or beef (raisin size)
75 mL (1/4 cup) pine nuts
10 mL (2 tsp) salt
2 mL (1/2 tsp) black pepper
5 mL (1 tsp) allspice
2 mL (1/2 tsp) red hot pepper flakes
2 mL (1/2 tsp) citric acid (to give a much desired tangy flavour)
250 mL (1 cup) natural yogurt
Add yeast and sugar to water and let stand for 10 minutes to foam. Meanwhile cut butter into the flour until it becomes the size of lentils. Add salt to the yeast mixture, dissolve and add to flour. Mix until dough holds together. Knead minimally. Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning so all sides are greased. Cover and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until double in bulk.
To prepare topping pour oil into a large frying pan. Add onions and fry until wilted. Add meat and sauté until brown. Keep cooking over medium heat until most of the juices have evaporated. Add pine nuts, salt and spices. Leave until completely cooled (half an hour or more!). Stir in yogurt.
Brush baking pans with oil. Punch down dough and cut into pieces about the size of an egg. Work each piece in the palm of your hand, roll into a smooth ball and place on a flat surface. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Place a number of balls on the baking tray and press each ball with the tips of your fingers and flatten to about 3/4 cm (1/3 inch) thick – about the size of the palm of your hand. Important: again leave for 10 – 15 minutes, and with the tips of your fingers press down the inner portion of the circles, spreading it out slightly in all directions. Spoon a generous amount of topping on each round. Bake in a 200C (400F) oven until bottoms are golden brown – about 25-30 minutes.
Serve piping hot or warmed up, accompanied by a bowl of yogurt to be spooned over the pies if desired. My son in law and grandchildren prefer to spread Labany (Yogurt Cream Cheese) on top.
Makes about 22 pies.
Note 1: For the desired tartness, citric acid may be replaced by sumac, or lemon juice, or even pomegranate juice.
Note 2: Instead of yogurt, some people add a lemony tehina sauce into the meat mixture. Another variation would be to otherwise add a few ripened, peeled, and finely diced tomatoes.