I was very hesitant to move to the Oil Fields of Alberta. A Chef loves a Global selection of ingredients. I love small Town Life...but Big City Variety!! Here it's a mix of "Meat and Potatoes" with a lil "East Coast Seafood" kinda town. Oil Riggers are known for their love of Quantity not Quality.
With that being said...I have found one of the "Jewels" of the Oil Sands. You could drive by it a dozen times and not even notice it...sandwiched between Fuji's Sushi and a Health Food Store. It's called "Mediterranean Groceries Plus".
The place is a Chef's dream up here!! The ultimate pantry at your fingertips. Ali Jomha immigrated from Lebanon and started the store a few years ago. It definitely has a Middle Eastern flair to it. Everything from Pomegranate Syrup to Zatar Seeds. You could spend a day just looking at all the sauces and spices. Everytime I walk into the place it takes me a good half an hour just to get out again. Every visit is a lesson in ethnic food...and I can never get enough of it.
There is a secret to the store if you really look around. Hidden in the back by the dozen or so varieties of rice for sale there is a window....if you peek in...you will see Ms. Badran making handmade Somosa's and Middle Eastern Meat Pie's. Which usually disappear the moment they come out of the oven. A shy Muslim woman with skills of a Chef. Everything I have eaten is so flavourful ... you taste the Love!!
Eventually Ali would like to open a restaurant...and I am going to be one of his biggest supporters. Until that time I will have to make due with the window offerings. I now know that Ms.Badran places her feast on the sill around 11am daily.
I am sure your town has little hidden secrets too....you just have to be curious enough to find them and adventurous enough to try the food!!
Middle Eastern Meat Pies
These Pies can be made with Meat or Vegetarian depending on your Lifestyle and Culture
- 20 mL (4 tsp) Yeast
- 5 mL (1 tsp) Sugar
- 300 mL (1 1/4 cup) lukewarm Water
- 175 mL (2/3 cup) Butter or Margarine
- 875 mL (3 1/2 cups) AP Flour
- 7 mL (1 1/2 tsp) Salt
- 5mL (1 tsp) Zatar
- 45 mL (3 tbsp) Vegetable oil
- 2 medium Onions, very finely diced
- 1 kg (2 pounds) diced Lamb or Beef (the size of cardamom pods) or half diced and half ground
- 75 mL (1/4 cup) Pine nuts (toasted), thrown into a coffee grinder for a quick pulse
- 10 mL (2 tsp) Sea Salt
- 2 mL (1/2 tsp) Black Pepper
- 5 mL (1 tsp) Allspice
- 2 mL (1/2 tsp) Red Hot Chili flakes
- 5 mL (1 tsp) Ground Sumac (to give it a lil zip)
- a dash of Cinnamon
- 250 mL (1 cup) Natural Yogurt or Kefir
- melted Butter or Margarine (you could use Ghee here too)
- To make the dough start by adding yeast and sugar to water and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile cut butter into the flour until it becomes the size of lentils. (add Zatar to mix).
- Add salt to the yeast mixture-dissolve and add to flour mix.
- Mix until dough holds together. Knead a bit. Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning so all sides are greased.
- Cover and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until double in bulk.
- Now prepare the topping.
- Pour oil into a large frying pan.
- Add Onions and fry until wilted.
- Add Meat and saute until brown.
- Drain off excess liquids.
- Add Pine nuts, Salt and Spices.
- Leave until completely cooled (half an hour or more).
- Stir in yogurt.
- Brush baking pans with melted Butter. Punch down dough and cut into pieces about the size of an Egg. Work each piece in the palm of your hand, roll into a smooth ball, place on a flat surface. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Place a number of balls on the baking tray and press each ball with the tips of your fingers and flatten to about 3/4 cm (1/3 inch) thick - about the size of the palm of your hand. Spread each round generously with topping.
- Bake in a 180C (300F) oven until bottoms are lightly golden brown - about 25-30 minutes. Broil tops just a Torch, being careful not to overdo it.
- Serve piping hot or warmed up, accompanied by a bowl of yogurt to be spooned over the pies if desired.