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How to make meat-filled pies from Lebanon

Arayes is a versatile dish which can be made spicy or mild.
arayes meat filled pies
Arayes is perfect as an appetiser (@catastrophiccook/Instagram)

I love meat pies. Then again I love anything with dough. A few years ago my aunt made these arayes when she invited us for dinner and I was absolutely in love. I had never had them before and was so amused by the concept.

They’re filling and easy to bake, making them perfect as an appetiser or even as a main with a good side salad. And the best part is that they’re so versatile: my aunt would make some spicy while others she would keep mild.

I used to love taking some home to reheat as a midnight snack. Each time I make them for my family now, the aroma brings back plenty of wonderful memories that I hope will stay with my daughters in future as well.


Recipe

Makes: 30

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour

pitta bread
Arayes can be made with any kind of flat bread (JLovesCoffee/Flickr)

1. Ingredients

  • 680g (1½ lbs) ground beef (80% lean/20% fat)
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 425g (15oz) can of tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 175ml (¾ cup) olive oil
  • 15 pitta breads
  • salt
  • pepper

2. Method

Preparing the filling

  1. Chop the onions into small pieces. Cut the tomatoes in half and mince the garlic. Chop as much of the jalapeno as you like, depending on your taste. 
  2. In a food processor, pulse the onions and garlic till they are finely minced but not watery (they will become bitter if you over-grind them).
  3. Add the tomatoes and pepper. Mix again.
  4. Add the meat. Pulse a few times.
  5. Add the tomato sauce, half the molasses, and a ¼ cup (60ml) of olive oil. Mix again.
  6. Take the mixture out of the food processor and put it into a colander, over a bowl, to strain the excess liquid.
  7. Leave it for about 10 minutes. Do not allow it to dry out:  remove it once it is barely dripping any liquid.
  8. Now add to the mixture another 2 tbsp of olive oil and the rest of the molasses. Season with salt and pepper (I use 1 tbsp salt and ½ tbsp pepper).

Filling the pitta

  1. Prepare the pitta bread by slicing it in half across and spreading ½ tbsp of olive oil on the inside.
  2. Take ¼ cup of the meat mixture and flatten into the middle of the bread. Coat it with more olive oil and set aside.
  3. Bake at 230ºC/450ºF for 12-18 minutes, flipping halfway through so it is crisp on both sides.
  4. Serve with yoghurt.

You can follow Nur on her Instagram: @catastrophiccook or her blog.