Breakfast

Breakfast

By
Suzanne Zeidy
Contains
10 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742708027
Photographer
Jonathan Gregson

Feteer

Egypt may share many of its culinary traditions with its Middle-Eastern neighbours, but the feteer is a uniquely Egyptian national food treasure. This decadently flaky, pizza-like pastry is made to order with great theatricality in the country’s fatatri, restaurants that are the Egyptian equivalent of the Italian pizzeria. The best ones are often tiny, hole-in-the-wall places with a loyal clientele who wait patiently to take away their pies, stuffed to order with fillings such as rumi cheese, tomato, chilli peppers and olives or cooked plain, scattered with icing sugar, filled with custard or drizzled with honey.

There are two types of feteer you can order: feteer meshaltet or plain feteer, which can be stuffed with a variety of fillings. The most popular is the layered version, baked until golden and eaten for breakfast with cream, honey and tahina with molasses. Plain feteer can also be stuffed and this is what draws in the lunch and evening crowds, who choose from a selection of fillings that include Egyptian sausage, basturma, tuna, vegetables, cheese and olives.

Once the order is in, the food theatre begins. The bakers work the pastry on a cool marble counter, with the fierce heat of the feteer oven behind and the throng of waiting customers in front. The dough is usually mixed out back from flour, water, fat, yeast, a little sugar and salt and divided into balls. The wet dough balls are rolled out by the bakers into discs, swung up into the air and twirled round, then slapped down loudly onto the counter. A rhythm builds and builds and as the process is repeated over and over, the pastry grows larger and larger until it overhangs the counter and becomes see-through thin.

This expanded feteer is folded over at the top and bottom, the filling spread in the middle, and then the two sides folded in to enclose the stuffing. Finally, the baker turns the edges in to create a round, envelope-like pie and places it into the oven. After just a few minutes, the feteer emerges golden brown, a little charred from the intensity of the heat, the top puffed up with scorching steam. Crammed into a pizza-like cardboard box, it is cut through into slices. It then requires a few agonisingly long minutes until the molten, often cheesy middle is cool enough to eat.

The feteer meshaltet is a much more labour-intensive pastry to make. The basic pastry mix is the same, but the pastry discs are stacked up with ghee, the many layers ‘meshaltet’, or ‘cushioned’, on top of one another. This giant bread-like pastry usually needs to be ordered in advance, the phone call put in to celebrate a special occasion or a big family gathering.

Recipes in this Chapter

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