Damascus communal ovens

Historically Damascene houses apart from few exceptions didn't have ovens and most of the cooking was done on cookers. Because of that there is very few baked dishes in classical Syrian cooking. These dishes were cooked in communal ovens. There was one of these ovens in every neighborhood. People would prepare dishes such as Kabab Hindi (Indian Kebab, although it has absolutely nothing to do with Indian cooking) or Lehmeh bil Seniyeh (literally "Meat in a Tray") and then they will take these dishes in the roasting tins and bake them in these ovens. Alternatively family butchers would prepare these dishes then bake them and send them ready.

The other dish cooked in these ovens was Sfeehah which is a very thin pizza like flat dough covered with spiced mince meat then baked. There is two variety of Sfeehah. Either mix the meat with Debes Remman (pomegranate molasses) or with tomatoes. Sfeehah was usually eaten in special occasions or when there was big number of guests to feed.

Nowadays with an oven in every house more baked dishes are being introduced to Syrian cuisine. These communal ovens still exists especially in old areas of the Syrian capital but their type of business has changed. They still would bake your home prepared food if you asked but they mainly sell Fatayer to passers by. Fatayer is a general term for all the small Pizza like pies with different toppings and stuffings. Classically there was meat, cheese, spinach and Zaatar ,a tangy herb mix made from dried thyme and other spices with olive oil, toppings. Nowadays you would expect to find anything between ten to fifteen different types of toppings in any self respecting fatayer maker.

Here is a recipe of Ftayer Sabanekh (spinach fatayer):

For the stuffing:
Spinach 500g
Large onion
Olive Oil
Pomegranate Molasses 1 table spoon
Pomegranate seeds 1 tea spoon (optional)
Lemon to taste
Dry flake chillies

For the dough:
Self rising flour 2 cups
One egg
Sugar 1 tea spoon
Salt 1 tea spoon
Vegetable oil 50 mls
Hot water 1 cup

Mix all the dough ingredients but start with half a cup of water and add more as needed till you get fairly soft dough. You can use an electric mixer. Let the dough raise for half an hour then make into small balls and cover with a damp towel.

Drop the spinach in a pot of boiling water and turn of the heat immediately and let the spinach and the water cool down. This will soften the spinach but it will keep shape better than cooking. Drain in a colander and squeeze all the water out.

Roughly chop the onion and fry in olive oil till it become soft but not brown. Fork out the spinach in a bowel and add the onions with the rest of the ingredients. Pomegranate Molasses vary a lot in strength, taste and consistency so start with a small amount then add more if desired. If your molasses is not of the sour variety you can add lemon juice but don't make the mix too wet.

Now flatten the small dough balls into thin discs 3-4 mm and 15 cm in diameter. Spoon the mix in the center then fold the edges to form the triangular shape as in the picture above. lightly oil a baking tray and put you fatayer on. Then bake in a very hot oven (225-250 degrees) till nice and crisp. It shouldn't take more than 15 min.

This recipe is enough for 15 fatayer.



Anonymous said...

Now I'm really hungry and I miss all those delicious kabab, sfiha and fatayer you wrote about.
Thank you

Unknown said...

I really want to make this. Looks delish. I nerver see fatayer in thes shape. These are like the ones I remember.

Kano said...

Hi Heavenly Housewife

Where did you eat fatayer? Are you originally from Syria or other Middle Eastern country?

The trinagle shape is specific for spinach fatayer. Do try them they are great.

Tammam Aloudat said...


Great article and recipe. I am happy you are starting to put on recipes and will certainly try these out. I have had several attempts on Manakish and because I have my mother made Za3tar my problem was getting the real taste and texture of the dough. I am going to try these tonight and see how it works.
I am going to Damascus in a month, if you want some photos for the blog, write a list and I will go around and take the photos.
Good to see you going strong with this mate.

Kano said...

Hi Mate

This dough recipe works very well. Taste and texture are very close to the real thing. Let me know how it works out. You can use electric mixer if you have one, makes your life easier.
Regarding photos, it will be great mate. You don't have to go anywhere special. Wherever you have a chance take some photos especially places, markets, shops, fresh produce, shawerma stalls, Fatayer, green grocers, Foul sellers ... I can use any of that.
Thank you mate

Tammam Aloudat said...

Will certainly do the photos... Not going to take the point and shoot camera. You are intriguing me to take the big guns (that is the Canon of course)

Maryam said...

You need to go to Al-Waha in Westbourne Grove in London. It's owned/run by a Syrian chef, and the food is phenomenal. Anissa Helou rated it best Middle Eastern food in London, and they just won an Archant award.

When we are in London, we practically live there every night. they have a website http://www.alwaharestaurant.com which has their menu -- and some of their recipes too.

Kano said...

Hi Maryam
Welcome to my blog. Thank you for the recommendation I will definitely go and try it.
Do you know what make me really sad. It is a shame such a good restaurant with excellent reviews feel they need to call themselves Lebanese.

samrx said...

Delicious recipe, with a hot chocolate it can be be so delicious, I would like to eat it as soon as possible thanks for sharing !

Charming-Damascus said...

Thanks for the lovely recipes! I would like to know how much "a cup" is? In Denmark we use grams so we dont know how much a cup equals:)


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