Mezze + Small Plates Recipe Index

Mini Lamb and Pine Nut Pies (Sfeeha)


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.

Sfeeha is a popular dish in the Middle East, consisting of a simple olive oil-based dough stuffed with minced lamb, pine nuts, tomato, and spices. It’s commonly served in a mezze platter alongside other small dishes like hummus, baba ghannoush, or spinach and feta pies. If you’re familiar with Middle Eastern food, you will recognize the famous baharat in the meat mixture. This combination of spices – which varies but usually includes cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, coriander and cloves – is used all over the Middle East and adds layered warmth to even the simplest of dishes. For a bit of kick, sfeeha also contains sumac (a deep purple, lemony-tasting spice) and pomegranate molasses, which are both easily found in Middle Eastern stores. To my pleasant surprise, I actually found sumac in the supermarket the other day for $3!

I’ve used Abla Amad’s sfeeha recipe from her book Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen. She has brought Lebanese cuisine to the Melbourne fine dining scene, and totally authentically so. I know that when I make one of her recipes, it will taste exactly like my mom’s or my grandmother’s. Her dough is super easy to make and only requires about 15 minutes of resting, but can shrink quite a bit in the rolling process. Make it easy on yourself by pulling off small handfuls of dough a time, rolling and stuffing as you go. It sounds more time consuming, but is actually much faster since it saves you from having to roll, then re-roll each pie base after it reverts back to the smaller size it apparently prefers. Traditionally, they’re shaped into little diamonds by folding in the “corners” of each small circle, which makes for a lovely presentation.

Adapted slightly from Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen. Makes 18 small pastries.

meat mixture:
   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.

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  • Reply Maddie 27/01/2015 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Yasmeen. Quick question-does the filling have to be raw before going in the oven?

  • Reply How to Cook…. A Middle Eastern BBQ | Mandarin Pie 28/01/2014 at 7:45 pm

    […] hummus recipe above and incorporate a beetroot dip. Or for something a bit more interestng try some lamb and pine nut pasties or pies which I found on “Wandering Spice” […]

  • Reply Denise Browning 24/04/2012 at 11:49 pm

    I’ll have to print this. In Brazil, Esfiha (the way that we spell there)is a very popular snack. It was introduced to us by Lebanese immigrants. We love it so much that it can be found even in fast food restaurants. Thanks for posting it.  

  • Reply Candace 22/06/2011 at 3:37 am

    What a beautiful appetizer! They sound absolutely amazing. You always make me so hungry when I visit your blog. The photographs that you take of your food are fantastic. Impressed!

  • Reply Foodness Gracious 19/06/2011 at 8:44 pm

    These look great and Im pretty sure one would not be enough to eat, I could probably pop all of them! Also maybe I’ll try making the meatballs and skewering them to fill a pita…mmmm
    Thanks and your pics are looking great!

  • Reply girlichef 18/06/2011 at 9:54 pm

    Well,I’m pretty sure those are the cutest things I’ve ever seen…plus, they sound delicious!

  • Reply Quay Po Cooks 18/06/2011 at 11:45 am

    This sounds like an awesome snack. Nice looking too.

  • Reply tasteofbeirut 17/06/2011 at 2:39 pm

    I made some sfeehas recently; they were inhaled at the house. So I have to make more and freeze them next time! I made them with the Baalbeck touch, with tahini and labneh. Yours look lovely, i will check out this cookbook you mention, as I have never seen it.

  • Reply Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 17/06/2011 at 10:19 am

    They look delicious-like bite sized morsels of goodness! 😀

  • Reply Adrian (Food Rehab) 17/06/2011 at 5:03 am

    Nothing beats freshly made dough and the pomegranate molasses would make this so tasty!

  • Reply Agnes 16/06/2011 at 6:31 am

    They look deliciously awesome – so cute! 😀

  • Reply Nuha 15/06/2011 at 2:47 pm

    you always make me so hungry!! I’m trying to remember if we cook the meat first before putting it in the center. If we make it in a triangular form, it’s raw, but square I can’t seem to remember. You’re making me want to make some of these asap!!

  • Reply Tanvi@SinfullySpicy 15/06/2011 at 7:21 am

    These look so cute & yummy.We get good ground lamb near my house.I m running to get some & make these! Perfect for snacking!

  • Reply Rebecca from Chow and Chatter 15/06/2011 at 3:41 am

    oh these look tasty was recently in Melbourne great food scene fun blog will follow to learn new recipes from you

  • Reply lamina @ do a bit 15/06/2011 at 12:16 am

    I just found your blog through Daniella Germain’s “My Abuela’s Table” site!
    I love your blog and I can’t wait to make some of the recipies that all look so yummy! I’m definately going to make these mini lamb & pine pies YUM!

  • Reply Janine Whitling 14/06/2011 at 10:21 pm

    yummy, having had these for years. I’m going to make them now, perhaps with some tabouleh on the side too..

  • Reply Elena (Running in Heels After Child) 14/06/2011 at 9:04 pm

    Those look like perfect little bites, I will have to try to make them.

  • Reply leaf (the indolent cook) 14/06/2011 at 12:23 pm

    What a great snack – I like the sound of the filling, with all those spices. 🙂

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