On Spinach pies (Fatayer/Aqrass bi Sabanekh) and Lent in the Levant
In the Levant region, Lent started on either March 3 or March 5 this year, depending on denomination. Lent is the season leading up to Easter. It is a season of abstinence and fasting for many Christians world-wide, with different levels of abstinence.
Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics in the Levant abstain from all animal products – so, no meat, no butter, no milk, no eggs. Some might also go further and give up a favorite food item like soda or chocolate, but the main fast is to take on a vegan diet. As a good friend of mine says, “it makes people think of those who do not have much in their life and thank God for all the blessings we have in our life”.
Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian, or Syrian Christians might prepare dishes like vegetarian (siami) grape leaves or cabbage rolls, many lentil-based dishes like mujadarah , and lots of healthy vegetable-based recipes, like stewed eggplant and
tomatoes, vegan msaka’a (moussaka) or green beans and tomatoes . The previously posted Reshta would work if you make your own vegan noodles (as is traditional).
These spinach pies are a good option, because these particular ones do not have any animal or dairy products. There are other variations on dough that use milk or yogurt, but this one is be a vegan dough. The filling is a traditional one that contains spinach, onions, spices, and lemon juice. There are other ways you can vary the spinach filling as well, but this post will focus on the completely vegan version.
This made 10 spinach pies. This recipe can be doubled or tripled – the pies freeze beautifully. I had a cup of spinach filling left over, which I expect to use as a base for a salad for the next meal. If you do not want any leftover filling, reduce the spinach to about 12 ounces.
Spinach pies – Fatayer/Aqrass bi Sabanekh
2 – 2 1/2 cups flour
1/4-1/3 cup oil (I used half canola, have extra virgin olive oil)
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
16 ounce package fresh spinach (or frozen, thawed and thoroughly drained spinach)
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 teaspoons salt
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
salt to taste, if needed
In a cup, mix 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon yeast. Allow to stand 10-15 minutes until it starts to froth.
Add water/yeast mixture to the flour and mix. Knead, adding water and/or flour if necessary to make a smooth dough that is not sticky, similar to a pizza dough.
Chop the spinach as finely as you can. (a Mezzaluna is excellent for the spinach). Place both in bowl, sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit 10 minutes or so, and massage the salt in. Taking a handful at a time, squeeze out as much liquid as you can and place in a clean bowl. You should end up with onions that are just starting to get translucent, and spinach the consistency of thawed frozen spinach.
Add lemon, sumac, black pepper, and allspice. Give it a good stir to incorporate.
Grease bowl with some cooking oil, put ball of dough, turn over to oil both sides, cover, and let rise till doubled, about an hour. Punch down.
Divide into 10 small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Let rest on floured surface about 10 minutes.
Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 475 F degree oven, until golden brown.
This recipe was added to the Tasty Tuesday recipe line up.
I’ve also joined the Recipe of the Week roundup.