Thirty years ago, Marco Maciel stepped onto the crowded beaches of Rio and introduced one of the oldest middle eastern snacks, the Esfihas.
Today, after exposing this simple Middle-Eastern pleasure to an already enormous cultural center, Marco and his camel are still going strong. As competition loomed in the street food vendor ecosystem, Marco had to figure out a way to stand out. Marco approached a Samba School where carnival floats are built and asked for help in the creation of a 6ft camel. The camel was given life, including specialised compartments for food and sauces, and is now the trademark that sets Mr. Maciel apart... making him Ipanema’s most colorful merchant!
And does it set him apart. His sales soar every day, providing some of the best and favourite Middle Eastern treats: the esfihas or pastry parcels, he can sell up to 1,000 a day!
Inspired by its exotic taste and the camel of course, I create my very own dough filled Middle Eastern creation.
My Esfihas with Tuna Steak
FOR THE DOUGH:
- 500g strong white strong flour, plus extra for dusting
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 7g sachet dried yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoon caster sugar
- 325ml lukewarm water
- 50g unsalted butter, softened
- Semolina flour for dusting
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
FOR THE FILLING:
- Olive oil
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- Pinch chilli flakes
- 2 tins peeled plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 75g pitted Niçoise olives, roughly chopped
- Small bunch basil, leaves chopped
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 12 anchovies
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled
- 4 fresh tuna steaks, 175g each
First make the dough. Tip the flour and salt into the bowl of a freestanding mixer with a dough hook fitted. Combine the water, yeast and sugar in a jug and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set the motor running on a low speed and gradually pour the mixture into the flour. knead for 3 minutes then turn the speed up a setting and knead for a further 6 minutes. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, gradually add the soft butter and knead until incorporated. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and dust the top with flour. Cover with a clean tea towel or a sheet of clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 ½ hours until doubled in size.
Remove the tea towel and punch the dough once to knock the air out. Divide the dough into 12 balls then cover with a clean tea towel and set aside for 1 hour until doubled in size. While the dough is rising, make the sauce. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-based pan, add the shallots and garlic and fry for 5 minutes until soft. Add the chilli flakes, tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar and olives and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 25 to 30 minutes until thickened. Stir through the basil and season to taste. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Dust the work surface with semolina flour and roll the dough out into small rounds, about 1 centimetre thick. Using your fingertips, press and turn the centre of each dough ball to create a rim around the edge (it should resemble a small, deep sided pizza).
Lay on baking sheets and leave plenty of space between each one as they will rise during cooking. Spoon a little sauce into the centre of each disc of dough then top each with and anchovy and a little feta cheese. Mix together the egg yolks and oil and brush over the edges of the dough.