I can’t believe that 2019 is over. I am not usually the kind of person who says that time flied, but 2019 passed both very quickly and very slowly, if you know what I mean. My only resolution for this year is to take care of my health and cook more often on weekdays. In order to make this happen, I will have to start cooking easy and quick recipes.
To be honest, I am always craving more sophisticated time consuming dishes like Shishbarak or baked Kibbeh. However, there are lots of Levantine dishes that are equally delicious but take much less time to prepare. This Arayes recipe is no exception.
Although Arayes is usually thought of as a Levantine street food, we actually make it often at home. It is one of those dishes that are so satisfying and are a breeze to prepare especially if you marinate the meat the night before.
Let’s get cooking!
Arayes is a simple dish consisting of pita bread filled with minced lamb, onions, tomatoes, chili peppers and a few spices. To make it start by marinating the minced lamb with the vegetables, condiments and the seven spice mix a few hours in advance or overnight. You can also make it without marination, but the meat tastes so much better if it is set aside for a few hours for the flavors to develop. Open a pocket in each pita and fill with almost ½ cup of the meat mixture, depending on the size of your pita. The pita I use is 18 cm in diameter. Brush both sides of the bread with vegetable oil and bake in a preheated oven at 220° C.
Which type of minced meat should I use?
Arayes are traditionally prepared with minced lamb. Some people use a mix of minced lamb and beef. I have also seen people who use turkey mince. It is totally up to you.
Should I add parsley?
I know that there are a lot of online versions that add parsley to the minced meat. In my opinion and the opinion of all butchers I know, parsley would make it taste like kofte, which is not the point here. Arayes taste is unique, so I would never add parsley.
Should I add chili pepper?
Chili peppers are added up to taste. You can also drop it altogether if you don’t want your Arayes spicy.
Why do you add mustard?
I know that mustard is not a usual addition, but I started adding it on the advice of our butcher. Trust me when I tell you it adds a hint of spiciness and tanginess without impacting the traditional Arayes taste.
How long should the meat be marinated for?
Usually for a couple of hours, up to overnight. If there is excess liquid, strain it before stuffing the bread. Else you will end up with a soggy pita.
What kind of pita do you use?
I usually use medium sized pitas (around 18 cm in diameter). I know not everyone has the luxury of having access to a wide variety of pita bread. You can use whatever you have on hand. Adjust cooking time based on the thickness of your pita.
How much filling should I add?
In this recipe, I add about ½ cup of the meat mixture to each pita. The meat should be thin enough to cook quickly. I have seen many versions online with thick meat filling; however, this is not the traditional way to cook it. Also, a thick filling, results in a dry pita and dry meat.
How should Arayes be served?
Arayes are served hot from the oven and are usually cut into quarters and are served with yoghurt.
FOR THE RECIPE OF THE SEVEN SPICE MIX, CLICK HERE.
IF YOU TRY THIS RECIPE AND ENJOY IT, PLEASE LEAVE A RATING AND A COMMENT BELOW. YOU CAN ALSO TAG ME ON INSTAGRAM. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE YOUR CREATIONS.
Arayes – meat stuffed pitas
- 800 g minced lamb
- 1 medium sized tomatoes finely chopped
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 small chili pepper finely chopped (optional)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp mustard
- 1.5 tsp seven spices
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 3 tsp salt or to taste
- 10 pita bread
- Vegetable oil as needed to brush the pitas
- In a bowl, add all ingredients under meat mixture. Cover with nylon wrap and allow to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours or up to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 220° C.
- Spread a thin layer of meat inside each pita, about ½ cup.
- Brush both sides of pita with vegetable oil.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, flipping halfway through to ensure meat is fully cooked and both sides are crispy.
January 8, 2021 by Sara
These look really good and crispy! I’m gonna give it a try tomorrow, I never thought about straining the meat. When I make it, the bread gets soggy. I’m gonna try it your way, hopefully I’ll get the same result. You used regular yellow mustard or Dijon?
January 8, 2021 by Ayah
Thanks for stopping by! I use either English mustard or Dijon. Whatever I have really, but you can also use yellow mustard, but I would reduce it to 1/2 tbsp. Bon Appetit 🙂
January 8, 2021 by Sara
Great! Thank you for the quick response 🙂
January 9, 2021 by Ayah
Anytime, I hope you liked it!
January 10, 2021 by Sara
Hi Ayah, I made the recipe today. I gotta say it was delicious, I made 2 different recipes and we all preferred yours. However the middle still turned out soggy :(. The only crispy parts were the edges. Not sure what I could’ve done differently…any tips? I strained the meat, used pita bread, brushed with olive oil ( perhaps too much?)
January 10, 2021 by Ayah
Hi Sara, I am glad you liked them and so sorry they still turned out soggy 🙁
There could be several reasons for that. Pita could be too thin (my experience is that it is the main reason behind soggy bread; Lebanese thin pitas do not work for Arayes). It could also be that the meat has not marinated long enough for it to absorb the condiments, so it releases lots of juices as soon as it starts cooking. If your molasses is too thin, it could also be a factor. Ours is thick, since it is homemade, if yours is too thin, use 1 tbsp only. Too much oil could also do that. Also, you need to bake the pitas as soon as you stuff them, else the bread becomes soggy. Finally, a very hot oven is key for crispy pitas.
I hope that helps and fingers crossed all will work well next time 🙂
January 12, 2021 by Sara
Thank you for all the tips! Will be making it again soon with a thicker pita bread. Which pita did you use?
January 18, 2021 by Ayah
I am sorry I missed your comment Sara. I live in Jordan and have access to tons of fresh pita made especially for Arayes. If you can’t find pita that is a little thicker than Lebanese pita, then though not ideal, but opt for Greek style pita. In this case, too thick is better than too thin. I hope that helps!