To help us feel connected during the current lockdown, my friend Meg from Feeding the Rest and I are trying out each other’s recipes, adding our own twist and adapting them according to what’s available in the food stores. Yesterday, I used one of her beloved family recipes for her Auntie Nadia’s ftayer sabanekh, a small savoury pastry emanating from the Sham region of the Middle East and Lebanon. It’s the latter – using a yeast-based dough – that I’m more familiar with so I decided to adapt Nadia’s recipe slightly but only a very little as I respect the tradition of Meg’s family recipes which have been handed down from generation to generation. In my version, in deference to my fascination of Greek culinary traditions, I used a mix of young greens rather than solely spinach. I left out the lemon juice too because the citrusy kick of the sumac and lemon zest was enough for me.
For the dough:
7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup Luke warm water
250g 00 flour
1½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
For the filling:
500g tender green leaves, including spinach, rocket, nettles (stings neutralised, see note below) and dandelion, thoroughly washed in plenty of free-flowing water
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp sumac
3 tbsp pine kernels, toasted
1 lemon, zested
3 sprigs fresh mint leaves, picked and roughly chopped
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
1 egg, beaten (or almond milk to keep them vegan)
To make the dough, mix the yeast, the sugar and warm water in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the flour and the sea salt and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast mixture and bring everything together. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside in a warm place for at least an hour.
Heat an oven to 180C.
Heat a medium frying pan and add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the onions and gently fry until soft and transparent. Place the cooked onions into a large mixing bowl and add the greens, pine nuts, sumac, lemon zest, mint leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently mix everything together.
Roll out the dough and cut it into 10cm rounds. Put a heaped teaspoon of filling into the middle of each round. Bring up the edges at 3 points to make a triangle – it took me ages to work this out so here’s a guide. Press the edges firmly to seal. Remember, as the dough will expand while cooking, a slight breakage in the seal is inevitable. That problem will be resolved if using a traditional pastry dough as Meg does.
Place them all on a dusted baking tray or two a couple of centimetres apart. Wash the outside of the pastries with egg (or almond milk) and place them in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until they are golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve as an appetiser or as part of your mezze table. Keep any leftovers in a sealed box in the fridge for up to two days.
If you’re using nettle leaves, be sure to wear rubber gloves when gathering them to avoid any stings and then then drop them into a pan of boiling salted water to remove the sting.
There will probably be some filling left so keep this in the fridge and use to top a quick flatbread or Turkish pide later on in the week.