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In the latest episode of Celebrity Sandwich, check out Tom making kafta arayes, a grilled and stuffed pita that’s popular in Lebanon.
“Arayes are Lebanese pita sandwiches that are very popular in Lebanon and Syria, where they’re stuffed with beef or lamb, or sometimes chicken or fish.
Rather than cooking the meat over a grill and then adding it to a sandwich, the ingredients are cooked inside the pita. I’ve made mine with minced lamb, toum and pickles.”
Kafta arayes: serves 2
- 200g minced lamb (coarsely minced is good)
- 2 pieces Lebanese pita bread
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 100ml olive oil
- Half an onion, finely chopped
- Half a teaspoon of baharat (Lebanese seven-spice, a mixture of ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, sweet paprika, black pepper, nutmeg and fennel seed)
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 3 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
- Ground black pepper
- Sea salt flakes
- 1 cup yoghurt
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- A small handful of pickled green chillies and pickled cucumbers
- A few sprigs of mint
- A pinch of smoked paprika
- Chilli sauce, to serve
Begin by making the toum, the kafta mix (the meat that will go in the sandwich) and the tahini yoghurt. These can be made a few hours or so in advance.
For the toum:
- Smash the garlic with a pinch of salt in mortar and pestle, and add a tablespoon of lemon juice
- Keep pounding as you slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream to thicken
- Add an ice cube and another 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; you should have a creamy, very garlicky sauce. This will keep covered in the fridge for at least a fortnight
- For the kafta mix:
- Place lamb in a mixing bowl with onions, tomato, chilli, parsley, baharat and salt
- Mix well to combine then continue to knead with your hands for 3 minutes until you have smooth dough-like mixture
For the tahini yoghurt:
- In a small bowl mix yoghurt with tahini and a tablespoon of your toum
To make the arayes:
- Heat a sandwich press on high
- Take the pita breads, carefully separate the layers and brush them with olive oil
- Divide the kafta mix in half and spread it onto the rough side (the inside) of two pieces of pita
- Spread toum onto the other two pieces of pita
- Sandwich the toum layer onto the kafta layer and press down firmly all over
- Take a fork and prick the sandwich 6 times to create holes for the steam to escape while it cooks
- Lightly brush the outside layers of pita with toum
- Place the arayes into the hot sandwich press, close and cook for 5 minutes, or until golden brown
- Carefully remove the sandwich and place it on a chopping board
- Spread the top of each sandwich with tahini yoghurt, and then top with pickles, mint, chilli sauce and paprika
- Fold each sandwich in half and serve with a little chilli sauce on the side. Sahtain!
Why are we adding ice to the toum? It helps emulsify – that is, bring together – the oil and the garlic
No sandwich press? No worries! Wrap your sandwich in baking paper, place it in a hot pan, put another pan on top and weigh it down (something heavy like a bag of sugar or flour is good for this; see Alice Zaslavsky’s sandwich for more details).
You’ll need to turn your sandwich over halfway through, and it might take a little longer to cook (the Food Safety Information Council recommends cooking minced meats to an internal temperature of 75°C)
About Tom Sarafian
Tom Sarafian is head chef at Bar Saracen in Melbourne’s CBD. He’s all about cooking Middle Eastern food with an understanding of authenticity and an Australian accent – like his signature hummus with spanner crab and Queensland king prawns.
Tom came to Saracen’s sister restaurant, Rumi, via Petersham Nurseries, Moro and St John in London. He likes to combine traditional techniques and recipes with innovative touches, focusing on cooking locally sourced produce over charcoal.
You can follow Tom’s adventures at instagram.com/tomsarafian.