Hawker-style dining is taking flight in many cities, and Melbourne is no exception. Middle Eastern street food is quite popular here. With so many cheap + delicious Lebanese “pizza” (Arabic: lahm bi ajeen or mana’eesh) joints around (like A1, Al Alamy, etc) it’s not hard to understand why. Interestingly, a similar menu item often doesn’t make the cut: sfeeha, or mini lamb and pine nut pastry. I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s the bit of extra work that goes into portioning and shaping the dough? Either way, I’m here now, in praise of the sfeeha, sharing with you the many – very tasty – merits of this small but powerful snack.
Adapted slightly from Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen. Makes 18 small pastries.
250g (1/4 lb) lean minced lamb or beef
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 tomato, finely diced
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp sumac
heaped 1/2 tsp allspice or baharat
1 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp pomegranate molasses (or juice of 1/2 lemon)
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup water
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and brown the pine nuts for 2-3 minutes until golden, stirring constantly so they don’t burn. Remove the pine nuts with a slotted spoon and reserve the oil.
Sift the flours in a bowl and add the sugar, salt and oil. Gradually mix in the water (you may not need it all), until the mixture comes together to form a loose dough. Knead it for a few minutes until smooth and elastic, then return to the bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let sit 15-30 minutes while you make the meat mixture.
Place the onion in a bowl and mix in the spices, salt, and pomegranate molasses (or lemon juice). Add the meat and tomato, pine nuts and reserved oil, and mix.
Roll the pastry very thinly – about 3-5mm thick. Cut into 20 9cm rounds (alternatively, pick small handfuls from the whole dough and roll individually if you find that the rounds are shrinking too much). Place 1 rounded tablespoon of meat into the center. Pinch the rounds together at the four “corners,” bringing up the sides to make walls around the filling, leaving the top open.
Arrange the pies on a baking tray and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.