Fatayar (meaning savory little bundle of dough in arabic) is a Palestinian spinach pie rich in iron and vitamin C.
According to Reed Mangles, editor of Simply Vegan,” beans and dark green leafy vegetables [like spinach] are especially good sources of iron, even better on a per calorie basis than meat. Iron absorption is increased markedly by eating foods containing vitamin C along with foods containing iron.”
While the spinach and lemon in fatayar should is an excellent source of absorbable iron, the Israeli siege on Gaza is causing a manmade malnourishment crisis among the children of Gaza. According to Dr. Mads Gilbert’s report to the UNRWA, ” the prevalence of anaemia in children <2yrs in Gaza is at 72.8%, while prevalence of wasting, stunting, underweight have been documented at 34.3%, 31.4%, 31.45% respectively”. Along with Israel’s three massive military assaults on Gaza within a six year period (the Jul-August 2014 assault alone killing over 550 children) in 2012 it was release that senior Israel was causing intentional malnutrition in Gaza for the purpose of collective punishment. The plan devised and implemented by senior Israeli officials involved, “put[ting] the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” (Electronic Intifada, 2012). To do this, Israeli health officials calculated the minimum number of calories needed by Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants to avoid malnutrition. They then translated those numbers into the maximum number of truckloads of food they would allow in each day (Electronic Intifada, 2012).
As ethical vegans, when thinking and blogging about nutrients, we must not only think about vegan sources iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients, but actively work to end the injustices that are causing the children of Gaza to suffer. May the following fatayar recipe inspire us all to work to end the Israeli siege on Gaza and bring about a just peace in Palestine and Israel.
Fatayar (Palestinian Spinach Pies)
For the dough:
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ¼ cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil, plus2-3 tablespoons olive oil, to coat the fatayar and the pans
Proof the yeast by dissolving it in ¼ cup warm water with the sugar and letting it activate for about 15 minutes.
Whisk together the flour and salt in a mixer bowl or medium bowl. Create a well in the center and add the oil and proofed yeast mixture. Using a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment or by hand, slowly work the wet ingredients into the dry, adding the 1 cup of water slowly. Hold back 1/8 cup and add only as necessary to create a sticky dough.
Knead by hand or with the dough hook in the mixer until the dough is very soft, smooth, and tacky/sticky to the touch (but it should not leave dough on your fingers when touched). The kneading by hand can be awkward at first because it’s such a wet mess, but as you knead, the dough will firm up a bit and absorb all of the water.
In a clean bowl at least twice the size of the dough, lightly coat the dough and the sides of the bowl with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 90 minutes.
For the spinach filling:
8 cups of fresh spinach, chopped or 2 lbs. frozen chopped spinach (thawed, drained, and squeezed dry)
1 ½ cups yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon sumac
If using fresh spinach, sprinkle with the salt in a medium bowl. Set aside to macerate for 10 minutes, then squeeze the spinach of as much juice as possible. Discard juice. If using frozen spinach, squeeze as much juice as possible, and discard juice.
Combine the spinach and onion. Just before filling the pastry, add sumac and lemon juice. If using frozen spinach, add salt (fresh has already been salted to remove the juice). Taste and adjust seasoning.
To fill and bake the fatayar:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush two heavy baking sheets with canola oil.
Roll half of the dough out on a dry work surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Gently lift the dough from the edges to allow for contraction. Cut dough into 4-inch rounds. Cover with plastic wrap. Knead together the scraps, cover with plastic, and set aside.
Fill the rounds of dough by placing a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of each round. Be careful not to let the filling touch the edges of the dough where it will be gathered together and closed. A good way to keep the filling in the center is to lower the spoon with the filling over the center of the dough (parallel to it) and use your fingers to slide the filling off the spoon and into the center of the dough circle.
Bring three sides of the dough together in the center over the filling and pinch into a triangle. Close the dough firmly.
Place the fatayar on the baking sheets and generously brush or spray the dough with olive oil. Bake in the middle of the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Set the oven on convection bake for the last 5 minutes of baking to encourage browning.
Repeat the process with the other half of the dough, then with the scraps that have been kneaded together and left to rest for a few minutes before rolling out.
Fatayar freezes well in a ziplock freezer bag and can be reheated from frozen, or simply thaw to room temperature and eat.
Serve fatayar warm or room temperature as an appetizer, or for a meal with a salad.
By Ariel Gold
Being Progressive except #Palestine is like being #vegan except bacon