Esfiha (Flatbread with Meat or Cheese)

"Esfiha" is a very popular dish in Lebanon, in Syria, and in almost every country in the Middle East. "Esfiha" was brought by Arab immigrants Brazil in the late 19th century, and it has become an integral part of Brazilian cuisine. The authorship of this recipe is claimed by Lebanon, but the history of the "esfiha" dates back to the origins of bread, when someone started to cover bread by layers of meat and onion. 
"Esfiha fechada" (closed) is a very popular variation of this recipe, probably created when the "esfiha" had already arrived in the Western World. 
"Esfiha" is a finger food, but can be served as a main dish, accompanied by salad and vegetables.

Ingredients

  • For the dough (20 "esfihas"):
  • • 500 g all-purpose flour, approximately
  • • 7 g active dry yeast (15 g fresh brewer's yeast)
  • • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • • 2 teaspoons salt
  • • 250 ml warm milk
  • • 125 ml corn oil
  • • corn flour to shape the dough
  • For the meat stuffing (10 "esfihas"):
  • • 200 g ground beef
  • • 75 g chopped onions
  • • 100 g chopped tomatoes
  • • half a level tablespoon of salt, to taste
  • • ground pepper
  • • juice of half a lime, about 20 ml
  • • if you want you can add chopped parsley and chopped green onions or chopped mint
  • For the cheese stuffing (10 "esfihas"):
  • • 250 g ricotta cheese or mashed fresh white cheese
  • • 75 g cream cheese or heavy cream
  • • ground pepper and salt, to taste
  • • chopped parsley and chopped green onions

Preparation method


How to make dough: 
Mix all ingredients together. If you use fresh brewer's yeast mix yeast, sugar and warm milk, and let rise for 15 - 30 minutes before adding oil, salt and flour. Turn dough onto floured work surface, knead by hand and let rise again covered and protected, such as inside the oven turned off. While the dough is rising make the stuffings. 

How to make meat stuffing: 
Mix together all the ingredients and let them rest in a colander in the fridge. When the dough has risen enough keep the stuffing out of the fridge and eliminate the liquid. To dampen the flavour of the onions I like to sauté onions with a little oil before adding them to the stuffing. 

How to make cheese stuffing: 
Mix together all the ingredients and adjust seasonings to taste. 

How to make "esfihas": 
1. Pour the corn flour on the work surface.  
2. Wait for the dough to double in size. Place the dough on the floured work surface and divide it into 4 parts. Roll each part into a thick sausage shape, cut each one into 5 pieces and gently shape them into balls. Let them stand for about 15 minutes covered with a kitchen towel.  
3. Take a dough ball. Start by gently flattening the center of the dough ball using a circular motion with the tips of 3 fingers joined together. Form the dough ball into a circular shape resembling a "bird's nest" (diameter of 9 - 10 cm). Shape all the dough balls. Let "bird's nests" to stand for a further 15 minutes.  
4. Place the stuffing in the center of the "nests" and slightly flatten and compress it. 
5. Bake them in a very hot preheated oven until golden-brown all-over. 
6. Serve with lemon or lime wedges. 

Note: baked "esfihas" can be frozen and reheated in the oven just before serving. 

Yield: 20 "esfihas"
Posted on: 11 January 2015
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