I discovered these little pockets of heaven one day while shopping at a local middle eastern grocery store, called "Medina".
I initially visited their shop for spices that can't be found at ordinary chain grocery stores (the particular one I was looking for was sumac), and then also started to buy other things there, like free range eggs that they get them from a nearby Amish farm, goat's milk yogurt, marinated meats, hummus, babaganoush, pita, pickled turnips....let's just say that this place quickly became one of my favorites.
They also happen to sell some prepared foods, and me being me, had to pick some things up to take home and try.
We instantly fell in love with these triangular pockets full of spinach, and sometimes spinach mixed with cheese, depending on the kind we buy.
Of course, I had no idea what they were actually called because they labelled it only as "spinach pie", so that everyone could understand, no doubt.
But these pies were so much better than just spinach. I do love spinach, but these were impressive and full of flavour.
I called a sweet friend of mine who is from Quatar and grilled her about these, and she knew immediately what I was talking about. She told me that they were called "Fatayers" and that they were a traditional Lebanese food. It's one of those foods that everyone has their own way of making, of course, so the recipes are plentiful. Some women will vow to never use milk in their dough, others always use it, etc.
The interesting tart flavours I was picking up on was lemon and sumac, which, ironically, I had just purchased.
I was buying the sumac for another recipe, but luckily had enough to make some of these too.
My friend was gracious enough to give me her mother's own recipe, which has become a favorite around here.
They're really easy, and fast, and can be whipped up last minute if you use quick rise yeast.
Sometimes I slip some feta or paneer (Indian cheese) into them as well. You can use fresh or frozen spinach...i'm sure some people swear by one or the other, but I've made both and I can't tell a difference once it's cooked. I think it would be far more economical to go with the frozen route though.
The most important thing to do though is make sure that the spinach is well drained.
yields approx 32
For the dough:
- 425 g. flour (approx 3 cups)
- 3/4 cup milk*, warm (or water)
- 1/2 tsp sugar or honey
- 1 tsp dry active yeast
- 1/4 cup canola or extra virgin olive oil
For the filling:
- 500 g spinach, finely chopped (I use frozen chopped. Just thaw, drain really well. For this recipe, use two blocks)
- 2 medium onions, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- juice of 2-3 lemons, to taste
- 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp sumac
- salt and black pepper, to taste
Putting them all together
- Add the yeast to the warm milk with the half teaspoon of sugar or honey. Cover and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
- Prepare the dough by mixing the oil with the flour and slowly mix in the yeast-milk mixture. Add salt to taste and knead for 10-15 minutes or until the dough is soft and elastic.
- Divide the dough into individual balls (small tennis/large golf ball size) and cover with a damp towel while you prepare the filling.
- Add salt, pepper and sumac to the diced onions and red bell peppers to soften them. In a separate bowl add the salt to the spinach and rub the leaves with your hands until they begin to wilt.
- Squeeze out as much water from the spinach as you can and then mix with the seasoned onion and red bell pepper mixture. Add lemon juice and adjust seasoning to taste.
- Begin forming the fatayer by flattening out each piece of dough. It helps to do this on a lightly oiled plate. If the dough begins to contract too much, that means it is not well rested yet.
- Add a spoonful of the spinach mixture to the center of the disc while making sure to keep the sides clear of oil or filling. This will help create a better seal later.
- Crimp the dough into a triangular shape and set on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Brush with milk or a light egg wash and bake in a 450 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature