My beautiful Syria, memories flood my head of all wonderful souvenirs I shared with my grandmother, aunts and cousins. Walking through the narrow streets lined by merchants selling crafted goods, balconies crowded by prying veiled women, the children stealing sweets from the displays, along with the overwhelming aroma’s coming out of the specialty stores all so distinct and dominant, The shops that sold chocolate, coffee and nuts, the bustling crowds pushing their way through the tented alleys, it was an event that stimulated all my senses. Then there was the bakery, where my heart melted. Counters and shelves piled with an endless amount of freshly baked goods. My favourite were these cheese pies. The perfect combination for breakfast with a hot cup of tea. Nigella sativa are the seeds that give the distinct flavour to these pies. They can found at any mediterranean grocer, they sometimes go by the names Kalongi or charnushka. Do not confuse them with poppy seeds, if you can’t find them, the closest substitute would be cumin seeds.
2 1/2 cups flour.
1 1/2 tsp yeast.
1 Tbsp sugar.
1/2 tsp salt.
1 cup milk (3.25%), warm.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil.
1 tsp olive oil (for oiling clean glass bowl).
In a medium glass bowl, combine warm milk, sugar and yeast and allow to ferment (it will look frothy). This should take about 10 minutes.
Add olive oil, salt and flour and mix well.
Transfer on to a floured surface and knead until all the flour is combined and the dough comes together into a ball.
Oil the ball of dough with the 1 tsp of oil. Cover with saran wrap, allow to double in size. This could take 1 hour.
Divide dough into egg sized portions (cover with a kitchen cloth so they don’t dry out during preparation.
9 oz Feta cheese or Akkawi cheese.
1/2 cup parsley, chopped.
1/4 cup mint, chopped.
1 Tbs Nigella seeds
1 egg, beaten.
1 egg + 1 tsp water (to brush over the individual pies)
Preheat oven to 410F (210 C)
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients.
Roll the small ball of dough into an oval shape, scoop one tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the centre of the dough and fold in the sides to resemble a boat (fold the long tips one on top of the other and then pinch to seal).
Brush with egg wash and bake until the bottom is golden brown and the pies resemble the picture in this image.