Fatayer – an adventure in Middle Eastern cooking

My contribution to a recent Peace Fair in Bristol was to gather some food-loving friends and cook up a big batch of Middle Eastern and Eastern European food together. As well as humus, baklava and k’mish breut, we made fatayer from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, chief-patron of Ottolenghi in London. These are spinach bread snacks from Palestine and Lebanon and are exceptionally delicious. I was first introduced to them here in England by my good friend Mirian Walton. Here’s how to make them:
For the dough:
40 ml milk at body temperature
1 teaspoon active dried yeast
300g white bread flour
165 ml water
1/3 teaspoon salt
40 ml sunflower oil
Stir the yeast into the milk. Set aside for 10 minutes, then mix the rest of the ingredients together and knead until the dough is smooth and silky. Cover with a moist cloth and leave somewhere warm for 45 minutes or until doubled in volume.
For the filling:
200g chopped spinach
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1.5 teaspoon salt
1.5 tablespoon sumac or grated lemon rind
1.5 tablespoon olive oil
1.5 tablespoon lemon juice
0.5 tablespoon pomegranate syrup (optional)
2 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
Black pepper
80g feta cheese
Put the spinach and salt in a bowl and set aside for 15 minutes. Then squeeze out as much water as you can. (I’m not sure how important this is as no water came out when we squeezed). Mix all the ingredients, adding the feta cheese last. Taste – it should be a sharp, sweet and sour.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Divide the dough into small portions, roughly 40g each. Dust the work surface with flour and roll each portion into a round about 0.5cm thick and 10cm in diameter. Stretch them to make them thin enough. Place 1.5 tablespoons of the filling in the centre of each circle. Imagining the circle as a triangle, lift 2 sides and pinch them together halfway down, to make a thin, raised joint, then lift the third side and pinch it to the loose edges – you should now have a rough triangle with a Y-shaped seam at the top. Pinch the seam and lift it upwards.
Transfer to an oven tray lined with a baking sheet or well oiled. (If the filling leaks, they stick to the baking sheet so make sure the dough is sealed around the filling and the baking sheet is covered.) Space them 2cm apart. Score with a fork in a couple of places and put somewhere warm to rise for 15 minutes. Brush with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature if you can wait that long before you eat them.

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