Besides the cake, I made savory snacks for the boys’ birthday get together at my house last month. Simple yet good food, easy and quick to put together, because they’d arrive at lunch time and I would not have much time to cook. So I went for mini carne louca sandwiches and sfihas.
As much as it sounds like a big cliché, Brazil is a melting pot and we have been influenced by many different cultures. Our food is a great example of that. Italian, Portuguese, Japanese – you’ll find all those flavors in our menu. Not to mention the dishes we inherited from the indians (Brazil’s first habitants) and from the slaves that came from Africa centuries ago.
There’s also a large Syrian-Lebanese community here (at least in Sao Paulo), so sfihas are extremely popular. These are so delicious, I’m sure you’ll love them – I did, even though I can’t stand beef. And my Italian/Portuguese/German family loved them, too.
½ kg (17 ½ oz) ground beef
2 ripe tomatoes, seeds removed, finely diced
½ onion, finely diced
½ cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons salt
juice of 1 lime
freshly ground black pepper*
30g fresh yeast
500ml warm milk – I used 1% fat
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 ½ cups (about 780g) all-purpose flour – I used only 730g
Start with the filling: place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well until smooth. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/428ºF.
Now, the dough: place the yeast in a large bowl and add the milk. Mix well with a fork until the yeast is dissolved. Add the sugar, salt and oil. Start adding the flour, gradually, mixing with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 5 minutes. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 5 minutes. Take small portions of dough – the size of a walnut – and make them into balls. Place onto a floured baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside for another 5 minutes.
Using your fingers – I used a rolling pin, it was a lot easier – open each dough ball into a circle. Place ½ tablespoon of beef filling** into the center of the circle. Fold in the lower third of the circle towards the center of the sfiha, then the left and right thirds of the circle, forming a triangle. Pinch the ends together to seal the filling inside.
Place the sfihas, 1 inch apart, onto an oiled baking sheet.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden.
If you prefer your sfihas softer, place them inside a pot right after they’re out of the oven and put the lid on (I did not do that).
You can also use an egg wash on the sfihas before baking them, which I think is completely unnecessary.
* the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon bahrat; I didn’t have any in my pantry, that’s why I used black pepper instead.
** the ground beef is used raw in the filling and releases water and blood after being mixed with the other ingredients. To prevent the dough from being watery, I placed the filling inside a colander over a bowl and squeezed the small portions of filling between my fingers to get rid of any excess liquid before putting them in each dough circle.