I have no explanation why it's taken me so long to write about these little pumpkin packets. After all, I've been making them for the better part of the past three years. They jumped out at me from the pages of the first Moro cookbook, written by a husband-and-wife team both named Sam, for the sole reason that I hadn't ever seen pumpkin, or squash, really, and feta together and the moment I read those two ingredients on the same page, it sort of clicked in my mind. What a perfect combination - sweet and fudgy, soft and sheepy.
The fatayer look like they'd be a pain in the neck to make, what with a dough and roasted squash purée and then the assembly, along with some toasting of nuts. But strangely enough, they come together very quickly. I've made these on weeknights, in fact. They're easy as...oh, forget it.
They're very filling - you won't need much more than a little salad alongside one of them for dinner. That's if you make four big ones from the recipe. If you want to make smaller fatayer, it's no problem - you just turn them into eight smaller ones. That's probably more sensible, though I've never done it.
Don't let the dough scare you off: it's silly easy. You just mix water, flour, yeast, salt and a little olive oil. Hardly any different than pizza dough, though the proportions are different. Don't be tempted, like I was, to substitute different flours for the regular, all-purpose kind. White flour gives the fatayer a bit of snap - the dough's rolled so thin that it crisps up beautifully in the oven and almost snaps when you bite into it. If you use whole wheat (or in this case, whole wheat spelt flour), the dough never quite gets to that crackly stage and it's a pity.
While the dough is rising, you roast the squash with garlic and salt and oil. Then you purée it and while you're at it, you might as well go ahead and toast the pine nuts now and crumble the feta and prep the oregano, too.
Then, the rest is no worse than an after-school crafting assignment. Divide the dough into fourths or eighths. Roll it out thin as can be. Fill it with dollops of squash purée, crumbled feta, a sprinkling of oregano and the toasted pine nuts. Fold each one up into a rough triangle and bake just until the dough is turning golden and crisp.
You have to let the fatayer cool just a bit after they're finished baking, which will be difficult. Your house will already smell of toasted garlic and roasting squash and now the smell of baking bread will join it. But if you don't wait, take it from me, you risk burning your mouth.
But then, when they're ready, oh, are you in for a treat. The salty goat cheese, the hot, sweet squash, the punch of the oregano and the nice waxy feel of the pine nuts all work together very, very nicely. These are inspired little things. They're perfect for those nights when you're curled up on the couch for dinner - they don't really crumble and if they've cooled enough, you can even munch them out of hand. Perfect for these lengthening autumn evenings or for those of you stuck indoors by a menacing storm.
Stay safe, New York. xo
Sam & Sam Clark's Pumpkin Fatayer
From Moro: The Cookbook
Makes 4 large or 8 small fatayer
220 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
100 milliliters warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
800 grams kabocha, hokkaido or butternut squash, peeled (if necessary), seeded and cut into chunks
1/2 garlic clove, crushed to a paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
80 grams feta cheese, crumbled
a handful fresh oregano, chopped (I used a sprinkle of dried oregano)
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
Salt and pepper
1. For the dough, place the flour in a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Sprinkle the yeast in the well, then pour in the water and mix slowly together, adding the salt and olive oil as you go. Knead the dough together on a floured surface for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Set aside and cover with a cloth.
2. Heat the oven to 450 F (230 C). Toss the pumpkin with the garlic, olive oil and salt to taste and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast, stirring often, for 25 minutes or until soft. Remove and let cool slightly before puréeing.
3. Divide the dough into four or eight equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then, using a rolling pin, roll out one ball very thinly. Eyeballing the pumpkin purée, put either a quarter or an eighth of it in the middle of the round. Top with some of the crumbled feta, oregano and pine nuts. Moisten the edge of the dough with a little water, then gently squeeze the adjoining edges together until you have a rough triangle shape. Pinch the edges together well.
4. Place the fatayer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough is starting to turn golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve.