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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vegan and Gluten Free Fatayer / Miniature Pizza Pies

I have been wanting to re-create these little Arabic pizza pies / pockets forever! Well, at least since 2009, when I first discovered I was gluten intolerant.

Fatayer is an easy, delicious Middle Eastern pizza / stuffed biscuit / pie type thing that varies in shape and fillings. You can make them with meat, cheese, or - as in this recipe - spinach and other greens. They can be a meal in themselves, as a snack, or as part of a spread of mezze/tapas dishes.

They're so delicious, btw, that I've been eating like three of them for breakfast every morning... and then another one or two with lunch...

It's fitting that I finally re-created them because waaay back when I first started the blog one of the first recipes I posted was one for Syrian herb biscuits. Almost four years to the day (totally by accident, in fact), I'm posting another Syria-inspired recipe.

So you might be wondering why this recipe is Syria-inspired when fatayer is widespread across the Middle East? Well let me tell you...

The first time I tried fatayer was in Syria in 2008, before the country fell apart. I'd been studying Arabic in Egypt for a few months and had the opportunity to travel, so I spent two weeks in Syria, visiting Damascus and Aleppo, and I also had the chance to see Palmyria, Afamea, and Krak des Chevaliers.

Back then, Syria was actually a beautiful country, with incredibly friendly people and some of the world's most amazing historical sites - with almost no other tourists to get in the way! Back then I would have recommended it as a place to visit. It breaks my heart what's happened to the country since then, and I hope one day it will be safe for people to visit again, and for people to be able to return to their homes. 

Canada has taken in 25,000 Syrian refugees this past year, and I signed up a few months ago to volunteer as a settlement mentor for newcomers. That means that I've been paired up with a refugee who's learning to speak English, and am spending a couple of hours a week with them to practice their language skills and help adapt to Canadian life. As it turns out, my assigned refugee buddy wasn't Syrian at all!! She's a wonderful Estonian-Russian woman with two little boys.

But anyway, let's move on to these yummy fatayer...

You can choose a variety of different ways to wrap them. The little pizzas are very easy, but the pizza boat-type things are easier to grab and go without loosing all your fillings ;)

Let me show you the process and then you can read the directions!

 Divide dough into sections - or roll it out in one big sheet (not shown here)

Decide how you want to shape them. As boats, roll them into a little circle and lay filling over top...
Then dab some water on the edges and pinch two sides together to create a boat

 Or create a triangle pizza pocket by rolling out a circle, dabbing water on the edges, pinching together 2/3 of the circle...

 Then pinch up the bottom 1/3 to create a triangle

 Or roll out a little pizza and spread out some filling

And finally, you can roll out a sheet, cut it into squares, dab water on the corners, and pinch them together to make a square box

Ingredients for Gluten Free Fatayer / Arabic Pizza Pies (makes 16-20)

For the Spinach Filling

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 diced onion (I like red or sweet onion)
1 Tbsp wheat-free sumac OR the following spice mix - 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp dried parsley, 1 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 pckgs frozen spinach (or fresh equivalent, steamed down and chopped)
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

For the Dough
1 1/4 c warm milk of choice or water (110-115F)
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp active dry yeast

1 c tapioca starch + extra for dusting
1/4 c chickpea flour (or brown rice or sorghum flour)
1 1/4 c brown rice or sorghum flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp dried rosemary (optional)

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil + 2 Tbsp for brushing


Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.

To make the filling:

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook 5-7 minutes to soften. Add remaining ingredients and remove from heat. Stir to mix and set aside until dough is ready. You may also refrigerate this until ready to use.

To make the dough:

1) In a small bowl, mix warm milk/water with sugar, yeast, and oil. Let sit for 7 minutes to proof.

2) In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients and stir to mix.. Mix in yeast and 1/4 c olive oil. Stir for 2 minutes or so, until batter begins to come together. It will be quite goopy, but don't worry, that's normal. Make sure to beat this for at least 1-2 minutes, GF dough tends to be thirsty, as you mix it, it will absorb more liquid and come together better.

3) Liberally dust a flat surface with tapioca starch. Choose how you want to shape your fatayer and divide your filling up. Shape and fill fatayer as desired - into pizzas, boats, boxes, or triangles, then lay out onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Brush with olive oil.

4) Let fatayer rise in a warm place for 30 minutes, until the dough puffs up.

5) Heat oven to 375F and bake fatayer 18-20 minutes, until lightly golden.

Best served warm (the dough is a little softer when warm). These also freeze really well, and can be reheated in the microwave or oven.

Have you tried Middle Eastern Food?
What's your favourite dish?
Do you have a favourite mini pizza recipe?

Have you checked out my gluten free pasta book  Recipes for Unusual Gluten Free Pasta: Pierogis, Dumplings, Desserts and More! ? Get yourself a copy and start making GF won tons, pierogis, dumplings, and orzo today :)

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