Lebanese meze always end with mixed grill flourish: tender pieces of lamb, chargrilled chicken marinated in garlic or minced meat kafta skewers. The latter come on a bed of onions slices rubbed in sumac and hidden like a jewel in the pouch of Arabic bread, which had been seasoned with oil and red pepper.
Sometimes having less is more; I longed for kafta and wine coloured onions, but I only had chicken, flour, water, yeast and good will. Two hours later as I had baked the pastries and cooked the chicken I was able to revel in tastes which reminded me of home.
The pastries could also be topped, cheese, tomato and olives or simply with a dollop of labneh.
You can also make a whole batch of these breads, freeze them and re-heat them from frozen. Middle eastern delis will sell the pepper paste, if you don’t have it, add a sprinkling of chilli to the tomato paste and oil.
For the dough:
- 400 g white flour
- 100 g fine semolina flour
- 1 sachet quick yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 350 ml tepid water
For the topping:
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced
- 1½ tablespoons pepper paste
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons Sumac
- Olive oil
- Sea Salt
- To make the dough using a machine: put the flour into the bowl of a food mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Add the salt and the quick yeast and mix thoroughly. With the machine running at a moderate speed, incorporate the olive oil first and then the water. Keep working the dough until it looks uniform and feels soft. Transfer to a floured bowl, cover with a cloth and leave in a warm and draught-free place until it has doubled in size.
- To make the dough by hand: place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- With the tip of your fingers incorporate the olive oil into the flour. Make a well in the center and gradually add the water. When you’ve combined all the ingredients, transfer the sticky mixture to a work surface. Knead for a good 5 minutes; the more you knead, the less sticky is the dough. Stop when it is smooth and comes away cleanly from the worktop.
- Shape it into a ball and place it in a floured bowl. Leave it in a warm draft-free space, covered with a clean tea towel.
- Depending on the temperature of the room the dough will rise and double in size within 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Pre-heat the oven to the highest setting or 220°C
- In one bowl, mix together the onions, sumac, salt and 3 tablespoons olive oil and set aside.
- In another bowl, blend the pepper paste and tomato paste with 3 tablespoons olive oil and set aside.
- Divide the dough into 10 portions. Dust them with flour and roll each one to a round disc about ½ cm thick.
- Place the dough circles on an oiled oven sheet.
- Spread the pepper paste mixture onto the dough pastry and arrange a tablespoon of onion on top.
- Bake for 14 minutes.