Mini Middle Eastern Pockets With Savory Filling (Sambousek)

With the arrival of all of the big sporting events and awards shows, I thought I would share a fancy appetizer recipe that would add some flair to your snacking tray. Sambousek is basically the Middle Eastern version of  Latin American empanadas, tiny turnovers of buttery flaky dough enveloping a flavor burst of savory filling on the inside. These morsels were always served during special occasions at my house when I was a child. I remember when I was around 5 years old  I would steal about 5 or 6 of these from my mom’s serving platter before guests arrived. Then she always wondered why I was too full for dinner! Traditional sambousek was always deep fried, however I think baked sambousek tastes just as delicious without having to deal with the mess of splattering oil. I also modernized this recipe by adding a little twist–roasted chestnuts. Sambousek can be made with ground beef or lamb or even chicken, but the addition of roasted chestnuts adds nice nutty texture and earthy flavor. They are selling vaccum packed chestnuts everywhere these days, from Costco to Trader Joes. You can omit the chestnuts and use all meat, but I always like to surprise my guests with something different. I also have a cheese version if you don’t eat meat. You can also omit the cheese and use about 4 ounces of sauteed mushrooms instead for a veggie filling. 



For the dough:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes (you can sub 1/2 the butter with sunflower seed oil if you wish)

  • 2 eggs, divided

  • 1/3 cup cold milk

  • 1 tbs white vinegar

  • For the meat filling:

  • 4 ounces ground beef, lamb, chicken 

  • 2 ounces vacuum packed precooked and shelled chestnuts, diced (optional)
  • ½ medium onion, diced finely

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tsp allspice

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

  • salt to taste

  • 2 tbs pine nuts

  • 1tbs plus 1 tsp olive oil

  • For Cheese filling

  • 4 ounces cheese of choice (I use feta or halloumi
  • 1 half small onion
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parsley minced finely or 1 tbs of zaatar spice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift the flour. Mix the sifted flour, salt, and butter in a food processor, pulsing until the butter is the size of small peas. In a separate bowl, beat together one of the eggs, milk, and vinegar then pour  into the flour mixture. Pulse until the mixture forms a ball of dough. Place dough into the bowl, cover with a towel, and let sit for an hour. While the dough sits, start preparing the filling. In a saucepan,heat up the olive oil. Add the onion and saute for about 6 minutes or until soft. If using a meat filling, add the garlic and saute another minute. Then add the meat and saute until the meat is browned. If using chestnuts add them and saute another 2 minutes. In a separate skillet saute the pine nuts in the additional tsp of olive oil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes, then add to the meat mixture. Set mixture aside. If using a cheese filling, then saute onion in 1 tbs of olive oil until soft. Take off the burner, and add cheese, parsley, and or zaatar.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is about 1/8 of an inch  thick. Cut into circles about 4 inches in diameter (use a small drinking glass for this). Take a tsp of the meat or cheese mixture and place in center of each circle. Fold each circle in half and seal with fingers. When done, take the second egg and whisk in a bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush each sambousek with the egg wash, to give it a golden finish when baked. Place the samouseks on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 18 minutes or until nicely browned. Serve immediately. .


4 thoughts on “Mini Middle Eastern Pockets With Savory Filling (Sambousek)

  1. Thanks for another great recipe, Blanche! The original ‘hot pockets’! I absolutely love the ones with spinach. Different name maybe?

    1. Yes Kell! The ones with the spinach are called spinach pies in English, and Sabaneh in Arabic. Completely different dough for that one, more like a pizza dough–but all delicious! 😉

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