Cooking for iftar can be a lot of work, but with an easy recipe like our mutabbaq recipe, it is a breeze to prepare for the celebration with family and friends. In addition to being quick and easy, you can even make it in advance. You can, for example, make and freeze a big batch and reheat it in the oven just before eating time, or you can prepare only the meat filling and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to assemble it with the paratha and cheese. The meat filling will last for 1-2 days in the fridge, and because of the eggs in the filling, make sure not to keep it for too long.
Mutabbaq is a filled bread package fried on a pan to make it beautifully golden and crispy. It is also known as, murtabak, mutabar, or martabak, depending on where you come from. The filling can be different kinds of meat and vegetables and in our mutabbaq recipe, we opted for a flaky Middle Eastern paratha with a classic filling with beef and flavourful vegetables and a sprinkle of shredded cheese that melts when the dough package is fried on the pan. It is the perfect snack for Ramadan, being both filling and perfectly snack-sized.
First, make the filling. Sauté onions and beef in a pan with cinnamon, leave it to cool, and then mix it with vegetables, eggs, and cumin. With your hands, spread out the paratha into a square, put 60 ml filling and a sprinkle of shredded cheese in the middle, then fold each corner of the square in over the filling to the middle, creating a closed package. Continue with the rest of the paratha and filling. Heat oil in a pan, fry the murtabak packages until they are golden and crispy, and serve.
If you have leftovers, you can freeze mutabbaq in a zip-lock bag for up to 3 months. If you want to make mutabbaq ahead, only fry it until the dough starts to firm and can hold the shape, then remove it from the pan and leave it to cool. Freeze, and when you are ready to serve the mutabbaq, defrost it in the fridge overnight and fry it on a warm pan in oil until golden, crispy, and done.
The bread used for mutabbaq is a type of flatbread, and in our recipe, we used paratha. Paratha is an unleavened layered flatbread that creates crispy, flaky layers when baked or pan-fried. You can make mutabbaq bread yourself or, to make it easier, buy, for example, frozen sheets of paratha. Store it in the freezer, so you can always whip up a batch of paratha mutabbaq.
The best way to reheat mutabbaq is in the oven to keep the paratha's crispiness. Place the dough packages on a baking tray and reheat them in a preheated oven for approx. 15 minutes. Reheat them straight from the fridge or freezer, but note that they need more time if frozen. Alternatively, let them defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating them. If they start to brown in the oven before they are heated all the way through, cover them with a piece of foil.
Snacks and light side dishes play a big role at an iftar table, and these beef mutabbaq with cheese are perfect for that role. With traditional flavours, a hearty, savoury beef and vegetable filling, and melted, gooey cheese wrapped in flaky, golden paratha, our mutabbaq will be a hit for guests and family members of all ages.
The shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese in the folded paratha packages does wonders for the mutabbaq in terms of both consistency and flavour, adding a gooey, melty texture to the minced meat and slightly crunchy vegetable filling, and a mild cheese flavour to the overall experience when taking a bite of the traditional snack.
The filling is flavoured with cumin and cinnamon, highlighting the recipe's Middle Eastern origin. The two spices work great together, cumin being warming, nutty, and slightly sweet, and cinnamon packing a punch with a woody, slightly citrusy and spicy flavour. They are delicious with meat like beef, adding incomparable depth and aroma.
Mutabbaq means 'folded' in Arabic, which is exactly what this dish is; paratha folded over and around a cheese, beef, and vegetable filling to a closed package fried to golden, crispy perfection on a pan. Paratha is unleavened flatbread; it has buttery, flaky layers, and is perfect to keep in savoury fillings. You can use it as it is, pan-fry it, or bake it with filling in the oven until golden. If you buy it frozen or make it yourself to freeze, you always have flaky paratha in the freezer ready to make sandwiches, wraps, or this delicious paratha mutabbaq.
Our mutabbaq recipe is a perfect, quick, and easy addition to any iftar table. The filling takes little work; you can easily let it rest for a while if you have other dishes to prepare. Requiring only filling, cheese, and paratha, it is quite simple, too, requiring only an easy folding before frying on a pan. Serve as it is as a larger, cheesy side dish, or as snacks cut into strips or squares on a platter.
When something is cheesy, it is an instant hit with all ages, which is why we opted for a generous sprinkle of shredded mozzarella and cheddar that turns into a gooey, melted delight after pan-frying the mutabbaq. It also holds the filling together, making for easier bites almost like finger food; perfect as snacks at iftar. And the best thing is, you decide how much cheese gets into each folded package, so you can go all out on cheese if you want to.
The mutabbaq filling is versatile, making it easy to experiment with. You can, for example, make a chicken mutabbaq with thinly sliced chicken breast. You can also add more, or other, vegetables, like grilled zucchini or aubergine, or put a spin to the spices by using ground cloves or freshly grated ginger. For a spicy touch, use finely chopped chilli pepper to taste. Just make sure not to use ingredients with too much liquid as this might make the filling soggy, and, if adding vegetables or chicken slices, make the pieces or slices bite-sized so you get a homogenous filling.