Ramadan Pastries Fresh from Ola’s Oven
Sambusek is a global treat originating in the Middle East. You may know of its cousins, the samosa and empanada. These crescent-shaped pastries can be stuffed with almost anything, but in Palestine they’re made with meat, cheese and zaatar. Recently I learned how to make them with the help of two Palestinian sisters, Ola and Alia.
Ola is the mother of our colleague in Gaza, Mohammed Al Ghussein. She’s originally from Jerusalem. And although her husband and three of her children remain in Gaza, she is currently in Jerusalem to renew her ID. She has been staying at her sister Alia’s home, which happens to be quite close to mine. She has sometimes tasked me with bringing clothes from Jerusalem to her youngest daughter in Gaza. In other words, I’m her clothes mule.
Alia has six daughters who now have kids of their own, so the house is always lively and full of grandchildren. The house also has a beautiful, shaded courtyard. I went over to their home, and we made a variety of sambusek pastries.
It took much longer to knead the dough than I thought it would. Every time I thought she was done, she would continue kneading for a few more minutes. And in order to ensure that all the pieces of dough are evenly sized, you grab a piece of dough between your thumb and forefinger and lift it until it breaks off from the larger piece.
Every time I thought she was done, she would continue kneading for a few more minutes.
The thing that caught my eye most was the pleasant and cooperative interaction between the two sisters. Ola would ask Alia, “Should we add a little salt?” and Alia would ask Ola, “Should we add a little more cheese?” Each confirmed with the other before they did anything to alter their special recipe. The recipe for the delicious dough is below.
1/2 lb. flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. yeast
1 cup yogurt
1 cup water (room temperature)
Mix all ingredients together. Knead thoroughly. Bake in oven until dough rises.