If you are a fan of spicy lamb and crunchy toasted pita bread, you’ll love these Arayes. I often make these with whatever I have in the kitchen. If I’m lucky I have fresh herbs like mint, parsley, or cilantro to mix in. I’ve made them a few times this past year and each time they’re a little different. These arayes are a great way to introduce new spices like sumac and za’atar into your spice cabinet!
I’ve been catching up on my reading lately, so I don’t have any eBook-inspired recipes right now. But I do have this spicy crispy lamb-filled pita recipe! Honestly, until recently I didn’t even know what Arayes were. We frequent a local restaurant called The Beirut that serves authentic Lebanese food. It’s so good that I know people who have left the Toledo area eat there every single time they visit. I used to get the same few meals every time I ate at The Beirut, but one day I asked about some other items on the menu and when I heard the waitress tell me about their crispy meat-filled pita’s, I had to try them, and I’m so glad I did! I think they call them araYES because YES, they are so good! Since then, the pandemic hit, and I found myself craving arayes so I concocted this recipe with some spices that I had in my kitchen from making lamb burgers, and added sumac to my arsenal. I’ve seen these made with lamb and/or beef, but I prefer a lighter mixture of lamb and chicken. It lightens them up a bit too!
The last time I made these Arayes, I cooked up half one night and froze the meat filling, and made another batch a week later. I think if you have time to let the meat mixture sit overnight the flavor will be even better!
Crispy Pitas Filled with Ground Lamb, Chicken and Spice – Arayes
- Baking sheet(s)
- Non-stick aluminum foil – optional, but works great!
- Pastry brush
For the Lamb Filling
- ½ lb Ground lamb Or any ground meat
- ½ lb Ground chicken Or turkey (If you really love lamb, just use all lamb!) *for a lower fat version, you could use all ground chicken, I have not tried it, but you may want to reduce the amount of spices.
- ½ cup Onion Finely diced
- ¼ cup Tomato Optional, finely diced, seeds removed
- 1 Garlic clove Finely chopped
- ¼ cup Chopped cilantro Optional, but very tasty! – or use parsley. You could also add 1/4 cup diced seeded tomato
- ½ tsp Mint Or add a couple tbsp fresh chopped mint
- 1 tbsp Sumac Optional – Sumac has a bright lemony flavor!
- 1¼ tbsp Za’atar Za'atar or garam masala would work fine. Use some to sprinkle over the top as delicious garnish! TIP: Taste your za'atar for salt and hot pepper/cayenne, if it's salty, don't add any salt to the recipe.
- ⅛ ts Cayenne pepper Optional, use more or less depending on what you like! If your za'atar is hot, you may not want to add any cayenne.
- ⅛ ts Salt *Taste your Za'atar, if it's not salty, add a little more salt
- ¼ ts Pepper Optional
- ½ ts Cinnamon I adore cinnamon in lamb so I use a heaping spoonful
To Prepare the Arayas
- 4 Medium pita bread loaves
- 1½ tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Lemon Cut in wedges
- Greek Yogurt or Hummus Optional
- Combine all ingredients for filling until mixed well. It should not be too wet. If it seems wet, you could add 1/4 cup of plain bread crumbs to the mixture.
- Preheat oven or grill to 450°
- Brush the tops and bottoms of the pita bread with olive oil. (If the pita is stiff microwave it for 5-10 seconds until it's pliable so that you can open it up.)
- Cut the pitas in half, and then in thirds to make six triangles. If you have small pitas, you may only want four triangles.
- Open each piece of pita and stuff with about a tablespoon of filling and spread it from edge to edge. For crispier pitas, use a thin layer. Press firmly to seal them closed.
- Sprinkle a little za'atar over the top, or cayenne if you like.
- Bake in a 450° oven until crispy on top, about 5-10 minutes. Flip and bake another 5-7 minutes or until crispy and the meat is cooked through. If you are cooking on a grill over direct heat, check them after five minutes per side, or more frequently.
- Serve with lemon, hummus or Greek yogurt.