08 December 2013

Spinach Pastry Triangle (Fatayer Sabanekh) - AFF West Asia Dec 2013

This month's Asian Food Fest challenge really took me out of my comfort zone. I've hardly eaten any Middle Eastern food let alone cook/bake such cuisine. My only knowledge about Middle Eastern cuisine is Turkish Delight (which I learnt from The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and had a chance of tasting it at a friend's party); and Shawarma, the roasted meat that's layered and skewered on a rotating machine commonly seen at local "pasar malams" (the stall owner would shave off the meat, either beef, mutton or chicken and wrap them in some kind of Arab flat bread with some sauce). In fact I thought it was Turkish Kebab until in the movie The Avengers, where Iron Man aka Tony Stark sheepishly said that he wanted to eat Shawarma after fending off Loki's army and the whole gang really went to eat as shown after the movie's credit roll (oh, don't you just love Robert Downey Jr's childishness sometimes?) LOL! I digress.

Anyways, I was scratching my head really hard as to what to try because I want to make something that I would enjoy eating and not just for the sake of cooking it (counting out hubby as he's not very keen in Middle Eastern food). Several friends [Wendy (Table for 2 or more), Veronica (Peng's Kitchen), Shannon (Just as Delish), Alan (Travelling Foodies)] who posted their creations and suggestions on FB inspired me and as I researched further, I found Middle Eastern cuisine is actually quite colourful and interesting. Realised they use a lot of olive oil, spinach, onion, tomato, yogurt, grains, parsley, cucumber, bread, spices, herbs etc in their cooking which is quite healthy. I always thought it's only meat, meat and more meat cooked in exotic spices. How misinformed :p

My very first attempt is Spinach Pastry Triangle (Fatayer Sabanekh). Didn't know about this particular dish until Wendy shared 2 websites (Chef in Disguise and TonyTahhan) featuring the recipe. It looks very interesting, bread with spinach fillings. I like bread, I like spinach and the shape looks so adorable.

Ok let's do it! I decided to use the recipe by Chef in Disguise; all the ingredients are readily available and I have most of them , except for sumac. Found a spice shop at Arab Street area that sells it but the shop was closed when I went :(. Anyway, the recipe says sumac is optional and can be replaced by lemon juice.

I did only about 40% quantity of the original recipe as I wasn't sure if I would like it, the yield was 18 pieces. Initially I had problems with the ingredient measurements because chef mentioned (in the comments section) that the measuring cup she used is 1 cup = 250ml. But the cup I have is different quantity and I was so confused. In the end I just used her conversion table and converted everything into grams.

Started with the dough because it needs about an hour of proofing. Interestingly, all-purpose (plain) flour is used instead of bread flour. First let the yeast bloom with some sugar and warm water, then add salt, olive oil, yogurt to the flour and finally the yeast. The dough was somewhat quite hard. Water added in gradually, and as I knead the dough became softer. Actually I didn't know how long I need to knead the dough, so just slowly add water and knead according to my gut feel, I think about 10 to 15 mins. The dough seemed smooth enough, so I let it proof.

While waiting for the dough to proof, it's time to prepare the spinach filling. I just use the china spinach found in a nearby supermarket, chop into small pieces and wilt the leaves in a pot over medium heat, then let it cool down. Meanwhile chop the onion into tiny pieces, and prepare the seasonings. After the spinach has cooled sufficiently, it was a tedious task of squeezing out as much juice as possible. The filling has got to be very dry. It took me quite a while coz there's really a lot of liquid.

After an hour of proofing, the dough doubled in size and ready to be used. I cut and weighed each dough about 20g first. Then proceed to season the spinach with the onion, olive oil, salt, black pepper and lemon juice.

Next up is the fun part, the wrapping! Take a piece of dough, press down to become a circle, squeeze dry the spinach slightly again and place in centre of the circle. Fold the dough from the top left and right and pinch towards the centre, then close the bottom section. Try to pinch as tight as possible. As a caution, I did 4 pieces and sent them in for baking first and the seams opened during baking, especially the centre part.

Thus, 2 important notes here, if the spinach filling is too wet, the seams of the bread will open up during baking, and try to pinch the dough as high as possible as the folds will shrink during baking and again cause the seams to open up.

Tadah! I think this is the smallest I can go, my hands not dainty enough to make petite ones.

Surprisingly I like this bread a lot and I must say it's very addictive! The bread is very crispy on the outside and chewy inside, kind of rustic. The filling is another pleasant surprise, it's moist, spinach taste is very subtle and the addition of lemon juice is piquant. Very nice indeed! I'm very curious as to how sumac would be like in this filling!

Spinach Pastry Triangle (Fatayer Sabanekh)
makes 18 pieces
(adapted from Chef in Disguise)


A) Dough
  • 215g All-purpose flour (plain flour)
  • 80g Plain yogurt (I use greek yogurt)
  • 1 + 3/4 tbsp Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp Instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • 100g Warm water - divide into 25g and 75g
A) Steps
  1.  Add 25g of warm water and 1/2 tsp sugar into the yeast. Wait for the yeast to foam and bubble (means that yeast is active, takes about 5-10 mins).
  2. Meanwhile, add salt to the flour, then add the olive oil and rub it into the flour with your finger tips.
  3. Add the yogurt and again rub it into the flour.
  4. Once the yeast is ready, add it to the flour mixture and mix well. A dry rough dough will form.
  5. For the 75g of water, add little by little to the dough. After each addition, knead the dough. The dough will be dry and tough initially but gradually will become slightly softer and smoother. I did not use up all the water (different brands of flour may absorb water differently).
  6. After kneading the dough for about 10-15 mins, it looks smooth and round. Place the dough in a bowl that's brushed with a little oil, then turn over the dough.
  7. Cover the bowl with clingwrap and set aside till it doubles in size, about an hour.
 B) Spinach filling
  • 400g Spinach (I use fresh spinach from China that's available at the supermarket, 2 packets)
  • 1 Small red onion
  • 3/4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 4-5 tsp Lemon Juice (to taste)
  • Black pepper (to taste)
B) Steps
  1. Chop the spinach leaves into small pieces and wash thoroughly to rid of soil and dirt.
  2. Place the chopped leaves into a pot and wilt for a few minutes over medium low heat.
  3. Let the spinach cool down then squeeze out as much juice as possible. The spinach must be very dry. Set aside.
  4. Chop the onions very finely, set aside.
 C) Combine/Wrap the pastry
  1. Preheat oven at 270 degree celsius, top and bottom heat.
  2. Once the dough is ready, cut and weigh about 20g per piece. There'll be 18 pieces based on this recipe.
  3. Add the chopped onions into the spinach, then olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. It's important to add these just before wrapping the pastry because the filling will get wetter and wetter.
  4. Take a piece of dough, press down into a circle. Scoop about 1 heaped teaspoon of filling, squeeze dry slightly and put it onto the middle of the circle. If the filling is too wet, the juice will cause the pastry to open up during baking.
  5. Fold the top left and right part of the dough and pinch and seal towards the centre. Then close the bottom part of the dough towards the centre. Try to seal and pinch the dough high up and tight as the seams will shrink and pastry open up during baking.
  6. Place the fatayer on a silpat or baking paper. Bake them on the middle rack of the oven for about 10 to 15 mins. My first batch took about 14 mins but subsequent batch about 10 mins. The fatayer will turn golden brown.
  7. During the last min of baking, I switch to broiler mode for 30 secs.
  8. Cool the the fatayer on a wire rack.

The fatayer taste best when warm, while the crust is crispy. They will turn slightly soft after exposure to air, especially in our humid weather. But still taste good!

Hubby took one and said it's not bad, edible but not something he would crave for -_-" While I like it, I'm not sure if I would attempt it again soon coz I've bookmarked a few other recipes to attempt for AFF. If I get hold of some sumac and have spare time, I may make this again  or try other filling variations :)

P.S. The fatayer turned soft the next day but still taste very good. I popped them into the airfryer for 2-3 mins at 200 degree celsius and the crust turned out crispy again. Yum!

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest: West Asia hosted by Shannon from Just As Delish.


  1. I'm not a particular fan of spinach but your buns are shaped so beautifully that even the spinach filling looks delicious!

  2. Thanks Janine! The spinach taste is only very subtle :)