This recipe represents the first in what I hope will be a series of recipes incorporating falafel in unexpected ways. I recently came up with a really great combination of fatayer, which are delicious Arab breads traditionally filled with spinach, cheese, or meat, and falafel, the delicious middle eastern snack made from chickpeas or fava beans.
Fatayer are really yummy snack foods and make a great light lunch when accompanied by a nice yogurt dipping sauce, like my Smokey Raita (recipe below) or hummus. I was developing a recipe for fatayer with a spinach-feta filling, kind of like an herby spanakopita but without filo dough, and I decided to stuff some of the fatayer with freshly prepared uncooked falafel filling and bake them. The result was absolutely delicious and tasted like a soft and comforting falafel ‘Hot Pocket’, except completely healthy, fresh, and low-fat!
The recipe is very simple to make. It does require some patience and about 3 hours in waiting for the dough to rise, rolling it out, and filling and folding the fatayer breads. Simply make a dough for your fatayer (my recipe is with whole wheat flour), and before baking, roll out your dough on a flat surface, cut a small square or circle, place about 1-1.5 tbsp. of falafel filling in the center, and fold your fatayer into a triangle or whatever shape you prefer. These are really yummy and make great additions to a mezze spread at a party. They are also easily customizable and can be filled with whatever filling your heart desires. It also makes a fun activity to do with kids-making a filling and folding the fatayer breads together.
Whole Wheat Fatayer with Falafel or Spinach-Feta Filling
Makes about 14-16 small fatayer
For the Dough
• 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (plus ¼ cup + 3 tbsp. additional)
• 1 tsp. salt
• ½ tsp. black pepper
• ¾ tbsp. instant dry yeast
• ½ tsp. sugar
• ¾ cup warm water
• 1.5 tbsp. sesame seeds
• 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• 2.5 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted on stove top
• 1 1/2 medium-sized green onions, finely chopped
• ¼ cup + 1 tbsp. finely crumbled Feta cheese
• 8-10 cups chopped spinach, roughly chopped, blanched and well drained
• 1 tbsp. Spice Blend with Zaatar (recipe below)
Spice Blend with Zaatar (makes a little less than 3 1/4 tbsp.)
• 1/8 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
• 1 tsp. dried basil
• 1 1/8 tsp. sumac
• 1.5 tbsp. oregano or thyme (or a mixture)
• 3/4 tbsp. sesame seeds
Smokey Raita Yogurt Sauce
• 2 tbsp. non-fat Greek yogurt or regular yogurt
• ¼ tsp. ground cumin
• 1/8 tsp. smoked paprika
• Salt to taste
• Ground black pepper to taste
Making the Dough:
1. Mix yeast, sugar, and warm water in a bowl and let sit until it forms bubbles and becomes frothy, about 10-12 minutes. Mix 1.5 cups flour, ground black pepper, salt, and sesame seeds in a bowl of an electric mixer (or by hand if you don’t own an electric mixer). Add in 1 tbsp. olive oil and knead (I use a KitchenAid with dough hook attachment).
2. Add in the water/yeast/sugar mixture to mixer slowly, continuing to mix. Add in remaining ¼ cup + 3 tbsp. of flour, a little bit at a time, and start kneading dough into a ball by hand. (You can add more flour if mixture is still not coming together into a dough that pulls away from the sides of mixer bowl.)
3. Coat inside of a large bowl with ½ -1 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil. Transfer dough ball to bowl and turn to coat in olive oil so that it doesn’t stick to the bowl while rising.
4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a large dish towel that overhangs the sides of the bowl. Let the dough rise for about 1.5 hours, or until the size doubles.
5. Remove dough from bowl and press with fingers to remove gas. Place dough on wax paper sprinkled with whole wheat flour. Roll out dough thinly and cut into equal portions for fatayer.
Making the Fatayer Filling:
1. Falafel filling; Make recipe of my chickpea falafels (without forming into balls and cooking) and fill each fatayer with 1.5 tbsp. uncooked falafel filling. Press falafel filling down flat on dough and fold dough over the filling into a triangular “hat” shape (see image above). Use any left-over falafel batter to bake some falafel balls in the oven or pan-fry, as directed in my falafel recipe.
2. Spinach-Feta filling; Bring water to boil in a pot on the stove. Add spinach to pot when water starts boiling. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until wilted. Remove from heat and rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Drain and squeeze spinach very well to remove excess water. Mix spinach with toasted pine nuts, crumbled feta, green onions, and 1 tbsp. Spice Blend with Zaatar. Make sure ingredients are evenly mixed for the filling. Roll out dough piece over wax paper into a small square or circle and place 1-1.5 tbsp. of the spinach-feta filling in the center of each fatayer (more or less according to your preference). Fold dough over filling into a triangle shape. (I made 14 fatayers, using about 1-1.5 tbsp. of filling in each.)
To Make n’ Bake the Fatayer:
3. Pre-heat the oven to 425°F. Grease a foil-covered baking sheet and place the fatayer 1-2 inches apart. Bake at 425°F for 12-15 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown on bottom.
4. Remove from oven and enjoy with some hummus or my Smoky Raita sauce (mix together ingredients from sauce recipe above and thin with a little water until you reach desired consistency).