Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Sfiha - Arabic mini pizzas ( kosher, gluten-free)

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Sfiha, Arabic mini pizza is a perfect choice for meze table... or picnic. You can even make these on BBQ! 

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Hebron, located on West Bank, is sweating in the sweltering August heat. It's far too hot to be outside: temperatures are well and truly above 40ºc . The air stands still and the dry, hot wind, occasionally making an appearance to lazily blow sand around offers absoutely no relief.

The kitchen in the home of the Palestinian family that's adopted me offers a welcome shade. The mother of the family is clapping her hands excitedly: her own daughters can't stand cooking so she's grateful to finally have landed a daughter who shares her passion. 

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There's someone she loves more than me, though: Nigella Lawson. Proudly she displays a technique for chopping up spring onions she picked up from Nigella Lawson herself; using a pair of scissors from Nigella Lawson-collection. 

Huddled around the kitchen table we drink tea and exchange recipes and stories behind them. Laughter echoes in the room and the cigarette smoke slowly slithers its way towards the ceiling. 

Mama Tarawa has invited me over, her only wish being that I teach her to "cook like Nigella". She on the other hand can't contain her confusion upon learning that her new prodigée, born and bred halfway across the world at the Arctic Circle, has never made sfihas

"You don't know how to make sfihas"? she repeats, incredulously. "What do you eat back there, then?"

Yeah, well. If I had anything to do with it, that'd be sfiha. 

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Sfiha, Arabic mini pizza, is part of pizza family's Levantine branch. As fas as the consistency and flavour go, it's closely related to its Turkish cousins; lahmacun and pide.

Over in the Palestinian territories I've encountered two versions of sfiha: in the other one the the base is topped with a yogurt-based meat mixture but this, I think, is infinitely the superior one. 

Traditionally the meat used for these is lamb, but in case you're having difficulties getting your hands on some, you can just use beef.

In addition to Middle East these treats have found a passionalte following inn Brazil of all the places, too. 

And now, habibi, it's your kitchen's turn!

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Makes 15

Sfiha - Arabic mini pizzas:

The base:

7 ½ dl all-purpose-flour (gluten-free if needed)
1 tbsp of dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
5 ½ tbsp oil
2‒2 ½ dl warm water


3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
500 g ground lamb (or beef)
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tomatos, finely chopped
2 tbsp quatre epices- spice blend or bokharat-mix
1 tsp salt
2 handfuls of finely chopped parsley
1 dl pine nuts, lightly toasted
a couple of tbsp oil for frying

To serve:

lemon wedges

For the base combine the dry ingredients. Then add 4 tbsp of oil and and finally water, continuously mixing until you're left with a smooth, elastic dough that won't stick. Slather rest of the oil on top of the dough, place in a clean bowl, cover and leave in a warm, draft-free place to rise.

In the meanwhile prep the topping. Heat oil in a pan. Sauté garlic and onion over medium heat until onion is soft and translucent. Then add meat, bring the heat up and continue cooking until the meat is properly browned. Add the spices and continue cooking for a couple of more minutes. 

Add the pomegranate molasses and tomatos into the mix. Lower the heat and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes. 

Fold in parsley and pine nuts. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. 

Pre-heat the oven to 225ºc. Leave the tray in the oven and, once the dough has doubled in size, prepare the bases.

Divide the dough in 15 portions and roll into circles of about 15 cm in diameter. Transfer on parchmens (4-5 on each) and leave to rise, covered with a tea towel, for half an hour. 

Top the bases with the topping, leaving about 1 cm edge uncovered. Press the topping onto the base either using your hands or the back of a spoon. 

Transfer the parchments onto the hot tray and bake, until the sfihas are golden brown - depending on the oven 8-10 minutes. 

Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.

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Equally delicious served hot or at room temperature, which makes these perfect make-ahead delicacies for picnics or get-togethers with friends!

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Any of you familiar with sfihas, Arabic mini pizzas? Or have you already fallen in love with lahmacun or pide?



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