Sambousek meat pastries which are also known as sambousek lahme have always been one of my favorite appetizers. Filled with a spiced meat mixture that's wrapped in delicious dough and fried to perfection, what's not to love?
These meat pastries are a dish that you'll always see on the table at every major occasion in Lebanon. From family get-togethers to wedding buffets, they make an appearance everywhere. They also can make an incredible quick meal to put on the table because they freeze so well.
Hungry already? Let's make some sambousek!
- Minced lamb or minced beef: You can also use a mix of both types of meat.
- Onions: The mince mixture wouldn't be the same without this ingredient that adds a super layer of flavor.
- Allspice: A dash of this creates the perfect balance.
- Seven spices: This is a commonly used seasoning in Lebanon. It's often made up of dried coriander, cloves, cardamom powder, cinnamon powder, ground nutmeg, black pepper, and ground paprika. I usually find this mixture at local grocery stores but if you don't find it you can easily make it at home.
- Salt/pepper: The star seasonings.
- Vegetable oil: To fry up the sambousek.
- Pinenuts: These are optional but can be added to the meat mixture for a tasty crunch.
- Pomegranate Molasses (Debs Roman): This is also an optional addition to the meat mixture but adds an incredible flavor kick so I highly recommend it.
- Teta's homemade dough (3ajeen recipe): My grandma's perfect dough recipe works its wonders here. Its ingredients are as follows: Active dry yeast, vegetable oil, milk, salt, sugar, flour, egg, and water. If you are short on time, you can use ready-made/store-bought dough or frozen pastry dough.
How To Make The Meat Filling
- Heat up a little bit of oil in a frying pan and add in the raw meat mix.
- When the meat starts to turn brown add the chopped onions and spices.
- If you're using pine nuts, add them in.
- When the meat is cooked through, remove the mixture from the heat and drizzle it with a little bit of pomegranate molasses (if using).
How To Make Sambousek
The biggest tip in making meat pastries is not to over-fill the dough (which will cause the sambousek pieces to break when being fried). The key to avoiding that is to measure a teaspoon of meat filling for every dough round (I used a medium cookie cutter to make the rounds). Here's how to get this done right from start to finish:
- First, roll out the dough you've got on a floured surface.
- Use a cookie cutter to make circles (they should be around the size of your hand palm).
- Lay each round on your hand before you fill it with a teaspoon of meat.
- While it's still in your hand, close the dough up around the filling and make little twists in it to close it up further.
Variations & Substitutions
- To make this healthier you can opt to oven-bake the sambousek pieces instead of frying them. When I do that, I make sure to add a little bit of vegetable oil to the baking dish. This helps to prevent them from turning up too dry.
- When it comes to filling variations you can get go crazy and play around with anything you like. I've personally tried filling sambousek with labneh (strained cow's yogurt) and mint. I also once tried making feta cheese sambousek and it turned out amazing. For the filling, I basically stuffed the dough with some feta cheese. I then added a bit of pitted and chopped-up olives and a tablespoon of olive oil.
- One variation I came across in Lebanon is a vegan sambousek. Its dough is made without milk and dairy and it's filled with a delicious combination of chard, spinach and raisins.
Though both are often filled with savory ingredients, sambousek is always filled with either meat or cheese while samosas are stuffed with potatoes, peas, vegetables and cheese. The dough used in their making can also be different with the samosa dough being a little thinner and crispier.
Sambousek can be frozen. Don't fry the sambousek prior to adding it to the freezer. When ready to eat the sambousek, allow it to thaw then fry.