Sfeeha Is The Lebanese Pie That Meat Lovers Need To Try

If the mood for a savory pastry has struck you, and you're scouring the internet for some tasty morsel to satisfy your cravings, you have arrived at your destination. Sfeeha is the Lebanese meat pie you didn't know you were missing. In Lebanon, you'll find sfeeha at bakeries all over, which the locals flock to for their morning meat pie. You can also find them included with some mezze platters, which are collections of small plates that are put together as an appetizer or a light meal.

Sometimes enclosed like an empanada (which historians say was inspired by sfeeha) and sometimes open-faced like a pumpkin pie, sfeeha are traditionally made with lamb, but beef is sometimes substituted or added in combination with the lamb. In traditional Lebanese bakeries (called foren), sfeeha will be made in the shape of a square with the corners pinched up to almost resemble a star and with an open top for the filling to show through. Other countries in the Middle East have their own spin on it, such as the Turkish lahmacun, but sfeeha are almost always associated with Lebanon.

The history and culture of sfeeha

Sfeeha is to the Lebanese what pizza is to Americans, which is to say delicious, ubiquitous, and not all that healthy, but nobody cares. No one knows for certain where sfeeha originated, but it is without a doubt a Middle Eastern dish that's closely associated with the Lebanese city of Baalbek. Commonly associated with celebrations and family gatherings, sfeeha brings up feelings of family, community, and hospitality.

Some Lebanese bakeries will cook sfeeha on a saaj, which resembles an open-faced grill with a dome on top where you set the sfeeha to cook. When sfeeha are cooked on a saaj, they resemble flatbread meat pies more than pastries since the dough isn't pinched up in any way.

Sfeeha are sometimes served as a main dish, often with a side of plain yogurt, but they're also included in mezze platters as an appetizer. Sfeeha can be eaten as an after-school snack or as a side dish for dinner, too. In other words, Lebanese people can eat sfeeha whenever and wherever they get the chance. If that isn't a full-bellied vote of confidence, then what is?

How sfeeha are made

Ask twenty different people how they make sfeeha, and you'll get twenty different answers, but the differences betray a hidden strength. Sfeeha are made with lamb, beef, or a mixture of both. Many people choose to make the dough themselves since it isn't that hard, but others prefer to use store-bought puff pastry or pizza dough.

Nearly all sfeeha will include diced onion and za'atar, which is the spice blend that gives sfeeha its distinctive Middle-Eastern flavor. Many recipes will also include diced tomato or tomato paste, and the differences begin to branch out from here. For a thicker consistency, tahini or yogurt can be added to the filling. For a bit of texture, pine nuts might be added. To help bring out the full potential of the flavors, cinnamon and allspice can be included.

Home cooks familiar with sfeeha are likely to have a family recipe that stretches back through the generations. For those of you without a family sfeeha recipe, the internet is full of options to choose from. Pick one and never look back, or try out different versions to find your favorite.