In this part of the world, it seems that almost anything can be served up in a pita. Most people are familiar with falafel and shawarma. Other local foods are served on pita like lahme bajen, or the pita is used as a spoon to scoop and wipe hummus and tehina from the plate.

One of the latest fast food crazes in this neighbourhood of the Middle East is the Arayes (in Arabic: wedding), simply a pita filled with seasoned minced meat. The Arayes is filled, brushed with olive oil and finished on the grill, giving you a nice crispy outside complemented by a soft meaty inside: something you can eat out of a paper bag and really get your teeth into.

The origins of the pita are Middle Eastern (thousands of years back), and the origin of this new trend in stuffed pita pockets is also here in the Middle East. Some say it comes from Lebanon, others Syria and there is also a contingent that claims it comes from the Galilee here in Israel. 

The Arayes are generally filled with minced lamb or beef, onions and pine nuts and seasoned with cumin and paprika, adding parsley or coriander as the fresh green herb. The recipe I use is a bit different, as I use a steak sauce from Chef Ramsey’s table, mixing it with the minced meat. This holds the mince together, gives the great flavours and keeps the mince moist – absolutely fantastic.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh pita large or small
  • Ground beef mince x 500 grams
  • Onion diced small
  • 2 garlic teeth chopped fine
  • Dry roasted pine nuts (optional) x 20-30 gram

For sauce to be mixed with mince:

  • Tomato x 5 
  • Tomato sauce (ketchup) x 5 tbsp.
  • Worcestershire sauce x 2 tbsp.
  • Dijon Mustard x 1 tbsp.
  • Tabasco x a few drops
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Balsamic vinegar x 2 tbsp.
  • Olive oil x 2 tbsp
  • Shallots x 2 or small red onion diced super fine
  • Bunch of fresh tarragon chopped
  • Bunch of fresh parsley chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

To make the sauce, first cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds then grate the flesh from the inside of the tomato (discarding the skin) into a bowl, add all the other ingredients and mix well together.

Fry the onions for a couple of minutes until softer and starting to clarify, add garlic and toss for a minute, remove from flame, let cool a minute and add to the mince, breaking up the mince with your fingers, then mix in the pre-mixed sauce. Taste for salt and pepper.

Heat a frypan with olive oil and gently, lightly toss the mince mixture a little bit at a time, taking care not to fully cook the mixture. Let cool and then slice open the end of the pita bread if small, or cut in half if larger, and generously fill the pita with the mince mixture.

Brush lightly both sides of the pita with olive oil and either place on a grill with low heat or into a toastie maker, and cook until crispy on the outside and cooked on the inside.

There you have it. I eat them as they are. Some add condiments such as tehina, not needed in my opinion.

The simpler the food the greater the primal satisfaction.

Enjoy or as Arabic folk declare, “Sacha wa Hana”.

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The BFD Food Column: Arayes
Daniel Goldwater

Daniel Goldwater

Ex-New Zealander, lover of the buzz that emanates from Jerusalem, Israel and the wider Med. region. Self-trained chef and entrepreneur, trained Pastry chef and former Personal chef to the Ambassador of...