Meat pies, known as sfeeha at St. Elias Orthodox Christian Church, are a favorite food for young and old alike.
Wendy Staley bakes them by the hundred and freezes them for her family. Antoinette Moubayet makes a batch and freezes them to send back with her son who attends medical school in Pennsylvania. Linda Yazji makes hers with ground sirloin instead of the traditional ground lamb.
All three of these women were among the volunteers at St. Elias rolling out the little balls of risen dough, filling each with a mixture of ground lamb, onion, pine nuts, and spices, and then intricately shaping the dough to make the neat little triangular-shaped pies, to be baked for the upcoming annual Holiday Bazaar 2002.
Antoinette Moubayet rolls dough as Linda Yazji puts meat filling on dough and pinches the sides together before meat pies are baked at St. Elias Church.
This year the bazaar will be from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday in the church, 4940 Harroun Rd. in Sylvania. The delicious meat pie is among many items on the a la carte menu. Also included will be green beans with meat, Mediterranean salad, Syrian rice, stuffed grape leaves, kafta, rishta (lentil soup), and hummus. In addition, a bake sale will feature Syrian and Lebanese pastries and other baked items, including breads, pies, cakes, and cookies.
The meat pies are a year-round favorite. You can serve them hot or cold. (See Page 2 for recipe.) Once baked, they can be frozen. To serve frozen baked meat pies, defrost in the refrigerator and reheat in a 300-degree oven for 10 minutes. Some people reheat them in the microwave, but they are best when reheated in the oven.
The dough is a typical yeast bread dough that must rise for an hour. Meanwhile, you make the meat filling. Whether you use ground beef or lamb, the seasonings are the same.
Meat pies are also served at a light meal following the service that marks the end of the 40-day Advent fast. “At St. Elias, we have a Nativity Vigil culminating with a Divine Liturgy, which celebrates the birth of Christ,” says Roberta Royhab, president of the Ladies' Society. The congregation gathers in the Fellowship Hall for the meal.
During Christmas and Lenten fasts, tart and lemony spinach pies are a popular food. “It's a little harder to make spinach pies than meat pies because you want to get the moisture out,” says Mrs. Staley, chairwoman of the Holiday Bazaar. “The filling should not be wet or the seams don't hold together when baked.”
Mrs. Yazji uses the spice sumac as a flavoring in her spinach pies. “It adds to the sour flavor, especially with spinach pie,” says the mother of two preschoolers. Ground sumac is sold in Middle Eastern markets. She also uses it in the pita bread salad called fattoush.
Besides these delicious foods, St. Elias Holiday Bazaar 2002 will feature 30 craftsmen. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., sweet rolls, Syrian and Lebanese pastries, juice, and coffee will be served. From 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Syrian/Lebanese foods will be served a la carte. For more information, call 419-882-4037. The event is sponsored by The Ladies' Society, which is a chapter of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America.