One aspect of Arabic life that stands out the most, is the generosity and hospitality which are expressed in the great amount and variety of foods served at any meal. In every home in the Middle East, there is almost always something ready to be served to a guest or an unexpected visitor. In Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan, you can find an endless choice of mini, bite-sized pies that look cute, smell good and taste great.
Nowadays, however many women have neither the time nor the skills to make fatayer bi-sabanekh (Spinach turn-over), “sfeha” (meat pies) or “fatayer bil jibna ” pies filled with different kinds of cheese. These delicious stuffed pastries are rarely baked at home, but mostly bought all readymade.
Tayba, located in Riyadh on Prince Mamdouh Road parallel to Orouba Road, is reputed for its delightful savory delicacies. Tayba which means “good” in Arabic, specializes in mini pies stuffed with meat or cheese and spinach turnovers. These different kinds of finger food are so practical and useful especially when unexpected guests appear. They can be easily defrosted and reheated in a few minutes, then served as a snack, as an appetizer or even as a meal in itself.
The dough used to prepare the delicious “fatayer bi-sabanekh,” the spinach turnover, is kneaded with olive oil producing a very soft pastry to encase a delicious blend of flavorful ingredients including chopped spinach leaves, onions, pine-nuts, sumac, lemon juice and black pepper.
Tayba’s spinach pies are flavored with pomegranate molasses. The use of pomegranate molasses is optional and it is a matter of taste. Some people prefer the spinach stuffing with a more lemony taste. Adding pomegranate molasses to the spinach filling gives it an exciting, sweet and sour, tangy bite.
Incidentally, pomegranate molasses is a gorgeous syrup. It is made by extracting the juice of fresh pomegranate seeds and boiling it down until much of the water has evaporated. The resulting syrup is thick and purplish-brown in color. Besides its wonderful flavor and heady aroma, pomegranate molasses contain polyphenols, antioxidants known to protect from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Tayba makes “sfiha” also called “lahm bi’ajjin” (literally meaning, ‘meat with dough’). This flat meat pie has been dubbed an “Arab pizza”. You have the choice between two kinds of “sfiha”, one meat stuffing contains chopped tomatoes and the other is flavored with pomegranate molasses which gives the meat a delicious sweet and sour kick.
Tayba also makes the famous “manoush”. A “manoush” can be described as a flat round bread dough smeared with a mixture of olive oil and “zaatar”. Zaatar means thyme but it also refers to a mixture of dried spices such as: ground thyme, ground sumac, toasted sesame seeds and often salt.
“Manoush” is a typical and popular food eaten for breakfast in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. I come from a country where breakfast consists of a croissant or a slice of bread with butter and jam so the idea of eating bread topped with a mixture of oil and thyme first thing in the morning did not appeal to me at all. However, the fact is that, you cannot live in Lebanon for long without being offered a “manoush”. If you stroll across the city of Beirut, early in the morning, you will not only get a whiff of the strong smell of “zaatar”, but you will also see people eating them with great gusto on the streets or carrying back home a stack of piping hot “manakish”, wrapped in newspaper. One day, I eventually discarded my initial feelings and tasted a ”manoush”. Wow! It was love at first sight and I have been addicted to it ever since.
Tayba also makes pies filled with “labneh”. Labneh is one of the easiest and quickest soft cheese to produce since it can easily be made at home. It has a creamy texture with a mild tartness because it is made from yogurt which has been strained in a cloth to remove the whey. Drizzled with olive oil, “labneh”, can be eaten with bread, fresh mint, olives, freshly cut tomatoes and cucumbers. Labneh can also be folded into a bread dough and baked, then served hot.
Whether you are alone or have to prepare meals for a family, Tayba provides a choice of freshly made finger food which is so versatile: they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner and even as a snack. And if you do not have the time to prepare a meal these bite-size delicacies can be reheated at a moment’s notice saving time and unnecessary stress.
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