Comfort Food: Recipes From The Levant

Ikraas Meha Ahmad/WBEZ
Ikraas Meha Ahmad/WBEZ

Comfort Food: Recipes From The Levant

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Temperatures are expected to drop next week and as the chill arrives so does our favorite time of year: comfort food season. What’s your go-to comfort food? 

Maybe it’s a bowl of spicy chili, or some matzo ball soup. Or how about a hearty paella? It can vary depending on a person’s background and traditions. So this season Morning Shift will invite chefs, cooks and food bloggers from around Chicago to share their favorite winter recipes.

Grab a warm blanket and your favorite cozy sweater as Morning Shift talks to food blogger Abeer Najjar about a couple of comfort foods from the Middle East.

Iqraas | Meat Pies

Prep Time: 90 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes | Serves: 16-20 pies


• 1 pound all-purpose flour (about 3 cups) plus some for kneading
• 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ warm milk
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 1 cup warm water

• 1 pound ground beef (may substitute with lamb or chicken)
• 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon Middle Eastern 7-spice blend (or “Baharat”)
• 1 teaspoon Sumac
• Olive Oil
• Salt & Pepper


Dough: In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the warm milk and olive oil. Slowly add the warm water about ¼ cup at a time while combining and kneading all the ingredients together. Once you see the dough coming together and pulling away from the sides of the bowl, knead for an additional 3-5 minutes. Dust with flour as needed. Then pull all the dough together into a ball form, lightly sprinkle it with flour, and cover the entire bowl with a light kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm area of your kitchen-the bread proof or warm setting on some ovens works as well. Allow the dough to proof for about 30 minutes-1 hour, until it slightly grows in size and smells yeasty.

After proofing, gently break the dough up into tennis-sized balls onto a large working surface. Cover them with a light kitchen towel to rest while making the filling. This amount of dough should make about 16-20 small pies.

In a medium-sized pan on high heat, warm about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the onions for about a minute on their own until adding the ground beef. Brown the ground beef in the oil, adding the salt, pepper, sumac, and 7-spice or Baharat blend. Continuously stir the meat until it is just cooked through, making sure not to overcook it. If it looks dry, lightly drizzle additional olive oil to make sure the filling is moist.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Gently roll out a ball of dough to about a 3-inch diameter circle. Fill the center with about 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Form a triangle shape by bringing the sides together to slightly overlap and pinch the dough to seal it. Then bring the bottom of the triangle up over the remainder of the filling, overlap and pinch to completely seal the pie. Make sure the filling is all sealed within the dough. Place the pies sealed side down on a parchment lined baking sheet with about an inch between them and brush them with a generous coating of olive oil. Bake them on the top rack of the oven for about 12-15 minutes until they are lightly golden brown and the dough has formed a firm exterior.

Store them in a bowl or basket, gently covered with a light kitchen towel. Iqraas are best enjoyed warm just on their own or with a side of plain yogurt for dipping and a Middle Eastern salad.

Spicy Stewed Tomatoes |  Bandora Maqlīyya