Arayes: Grilled Lamb Stuffed Pita Pockets

(Wade Grann)

By Jessica Grann

I love lamb. It’s my favorite of any meat available and it’s even better grilled. Arayes — pitas filled with lamb — are typical street food that one can readily find in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries.

They are easy to prep, easy to cook and super easy to eat. One of the best things about this recipe is that you can cook it a day in advance and just warm in it the oven before guests arrive. I serve it with a simple garden salad or Israeli salad and a simple-to-make garlic dipping sauce. This is a great party food because you can easily eat it while standing.

2 pounds of ground lamb
1 cup of fresh flat leaf parsley
1 large onion
¼ cup of pine nuts
2 teaspoons of baharat spice
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
6 small, thick pitas, halved
Olive oil

Place lamb, pine nuts, baharat, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

Peel and quarter the onion and place it with the parsley in a food processor. Pulse until well blended. Scrape mixture onto an old cloth dish towel or napkin that was not washed with strong smelling detergent or fabric softener — you don’t want your mixture to taste like soap! Twist the towel and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. It will take a few minutes and you may see 1-2 cups of liquid drain out. Once strained, add into the large bowl and loosely mix with your hands.

Cut 6 pitas in half and stuff with the lamb mixture, as close to the top as possible without overstuffing. Brush both sides of each pita lightly with olive oil. I typically stand them meat-side up in a baking pan. You can grill over low-medium heat or cook these in a cast iron skillet on your stove top over medium-high heat. I prefer lamb grilled and well done, but you can cook it to your liking. Simply use an instant read digital thermometer.

Place each half down onto the grill or into the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cut in half so that you have 2 wedges from each half. Place back onto the grill or into the skillet, meat-side down for 1-2 minutes, then turn to the other side to sear the lamb. At this point, move to indirect heat on the grill, or onto a baking sheet and into the oven warmed to 325 degrees. Remove from heat after 10 minutes and cover with foil to keep warm. You can also cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. I suggest setting your oven to 325 and warming for about 15 minutes.

These are a great picnic-style food and also a fun but satisfying meal for Shabbat lunch.

Garlic dipping sauce:

½ cup of mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
2-4 tablespoons of water

Crush and mince one large clove of garlic.

Whisk garlic and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice together, then add into half a cup of mayonnaise. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, whisking after each addition until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. I prefer it fairly runny. Serve with a simple garden salad or Israeli salad. The dipping sauce also works as a flavorful, garlicky salad dressing. Enjoy!

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh. This originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.

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