The Esfirra (also written as Esfiha- both are pronounced ess-Fee-ha) is a Brazilian savory pie. It is a common snack and fast food that evolved from the Middle Eastern Sfihah, brought to Brazil by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants. The Sfihah is an open mutton, lamb, or beef pie, shaped like a pizza. Some esfirra are also open like the Sfihah, but I made the closed, triangular shaped version.
Other types of filling include catupiry (a creamy cheese from Brazil- ricotta is sometimes substituted), linguica calabresa (Brazilian smoked sausage), and chicken.
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I found the recipe in A World of Dumplings by Brian Yarvin. I adapted it slightly by adding some spices. Dumplings are my favorite food. Maultaschen, gyoza, ravioli, wontons, tortellini…I love them all. I just wish they weren’t so time-consuming to make. Before Evan, I would often double or triple recipes to fill my freezer. It would take all afternoon to fill those little pockets, but the time was worth it for such a large stash. Now, I can’t devote an entire afternoon to them and it takes me about an hour to make a batch, only to eat all of them in about 5 minutes. Since these esfirra are larger and involve an easy fold, they weren’t nearly as time-consuming as some of the smaller dumplings. They also freeze well for future use.
I made a couple of the Esfirra smaller for Evan. He seems to share my love for wrapped foods. We also found out he loves lumpia (his Lola’s Filipino egg rolls) over Thanksgiving when he took one off my plate and ate half of it. He managed pretty well for having only two teeth.
Ground Beef Esfirra
Adapted from A World of Dumplings
Ground Beef Esfirra
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons margarine softened
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 medium tomato seeded and chopped
- 1 bell pepper seeded and chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water (about 105 degrees Fahrenheit). Let sit for about 10 minutes until frothy.
- In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a dough blade or a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Mix in margarine and egg until the dough comes together. If too dry, add water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft and smooth.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until elastic, about 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll each one into a ball. Place a cloth over the pieces and let rise in a warm place for 3 hours.
- After 2 1/2 hours, heat peanut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Fry the onion until soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato and pepper and cook until pepper softens, about 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cloves, and cumin. Fry until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the beef, thyme, salt, and pepper, breaking up the beef into small pieces. Cook until the beef is browned and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and oil a large baking sheet or line with parchment.
- Roll each ball of dough flat. Place about 2 tablespoons of cooled filling in the center of the flat square and fold the dough over on three sides to form a triangle. Pinch the seams closed. Place the filled esfirra on prepared baking sheet. Bake until the esfirra are golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serve hot.