Arayes – meat stuffed pitas
I can’t believe that 2019 is over. I am not usually the kind of person who says that time flied, but 2019 passed both very quickly and very slowly, if you know what I mean. My only resolution for this year is to take care of my health and cook more often on weekdays. In order to make this happen, I will have to start cooking easy and quick recipes.
To be honest, I am always craving more sophisticated time consuming dishes like Shishbarak or baked Kibbeh. However, there are lots of Levantine dishes that are equally delicious but take much less time to prepare. This Arayes recipe is no exception.
Although Arayes is usually thought of as a Levantine street food, we actually make it often at home. It is one of those dishes that are so satisfying and are a breeze to prepare especially if you marinate the meat the night before.
Let’s get cooking!
Arayes is a simple dish consisting of pita bread filled with minced lamb, onions, tomatoes, chili peppers and a few spices. To make it start by marinating the minced lamb with the vegetables, condiments and the seven spice mix a few hours in advance or overnight. You can also make it without marination, but the meat tastes so much better if it is set aside for a few hours for the flavors to develop. Open a pocket in each pita and fill with almost ½ cup of the meat mixture, depending on the size of your pita. The pita I use is 18 cm in diameter. Brush both sides of the bread with vegetable oil and bake in a preheated oven at 220° C.
Which type of minced meat should I use?
Arayes are traditionally prepared with minced lamb. Some people use a mix of minced lamb and beef. I have also seen people who use turkey mince. It is totally up to you.
Should I add parsley?
I know that there are a lot of online versions that add parsley to the minced meat. In my opinion and the opinion of all butchers I know, parsley would make it taste like kofte, which is not the point here. Arayes taste is unique, so I would never add parsley.
Should I add chili pepper?
Chili peppers are added up to taste. You can also drop it altogether if you don’t want your Arayes spicy.
Why do you add mustard?
I know that mustard is not a usual addition, but I started adding it on the advice of our butcher. Trust me when I tell you it adds a hint of spiciness and tanginess without impacting the traditional Arayes taste.
How long should the meat be marinated for?
Usually for a couple of hours, up to overnight. If there is excess liquid, strain it before stuffing the bread. Else you will end up with a soggy pita.
What kind of pita do you use?
I usually use medium sized pitas (around 18 cm in diameter). I know not everyone has the luxury of having access to a wide variety of pita bread. You can use whatever you have on hand. Adjust cooking time based on the thickness of your pita.
How much filling should I add?
In this recipe, I add about ½ cup of the meat mixture to each pita. The meat should be thin enough to cook quickly. I have seen many versions online with thick meat filling; however, this is not the traditional way to cook it. Also, a thick filling, results in a dry pita and dry meat.
How should Arayes be served?
Arayes are served hot from the oven and are usually cut into quarters and are served with yoghurt.
FOR THE RECIPE OF THE SEVEN SPICE MIX, CLICK HERE.
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Arayes – meat stuffed pitas
- 800 g minced lamb
- 1 medium sized tomatoes finely chopped
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 small chili pepper finely chopped (optional)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp mustard
- 1.5 tsp seven spices
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 3 tsp salt or to taste
- 10 pita bread
- Vegetable oil as needed to brush the pitas
- In a bowl, add all ingredients under meat mixture. Cover with nylon wrap and allow to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours or up to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 220° C.
- Spread a thin layer of meat inside each pita, about ½ cup.
- Brush both sides of pita with vegetable oil.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, flipping halfway through to ensure meat is fully cooked and both sides are crispy.