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Sfiha is a type of pastry or bread that is covered or filled with a meat mixture that is popular in some Middle Eastern and South American countries. It is compared to a pizza in some instances because it appears to have toppings on thin, circular bread, although cooks in some areas form the dough into a small packet with the meat sitting inside of it. The dough used is frequently leavened, but it also can be unleavened like a pita. The meat mixture is flavored in a way that gives it a sweet and sour taste. When the sfiha is finished, it can be served with yogurt, cucumbers or tahini sauce, a type of sesame seed paste.
The first part of a sfiha, and one that can help to determine the character of the finished meal, is the type of bread dough involved. This typically begins as standard leavened bread dough. Spices such as cumin, sauteed onions or allspice can be integrated into the dough so it has a more distinct flavor from the meat. It also is normal to put some yogurt into the dough for moisture and a tart tang. The final dough is rolled out very thin, like a pastry shell.
The meat filling can have a wide variety of ingredients and spices added to it. The two most common meats used in the filling are lamb and beef. Vegetables such as onion and tomato are mixed with the meat. Spices such as parsley, allspice, red pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and paprika are added according to taste. Yogurt is usually included in the mixture, although vinegar is sometimes used instead to give a sharp taste.
Sfiha filling can be rounded out and balanced with ingredients such as pomegranate juice, ginger and garlic. Garam masala, a blend of roasted spices, and tahini paste can be added to deepen the flavors. The entire mixture is fried in a pan until the meat is almost cooked and the flavors have combined.
When preparing sfiha for cooking, the dough is rolled out flat and thin. To make a pizza-like flat sfiha, the meat mixture is spooned over the top of the dough until it has covered the entire area except for a small gap around the edges. For a sfiha that is more like a small package, spoonfuls of meat are placed on the sheet of dough a few inches apart, and the dough is cut into squares with the meat at the center of each square. The edges of each square are pinched together around the meat to form a small pastry cup.
The sfiha are baked in an oven until the dough has started to brown and the meat mixture has completed cooking. These are usually served hot along with either a bowl of yogurt or some tahini sauce. Diced vegetables such as tomatoes or cucumbers can be sprinkled over top, as can fresh herbs such as coriander or pomegranate seeds.
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