Saturday, October 6, 2007

Recipe of the week from Moroccan Cooking: Moroccan cigars

These cigar-like savoury pastry rolls are known as Bourek in Morocco. This is a popular restaurant dish.

Servings: 20
Time: 40 minutes prep time, 25-30 minutes cooking.

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
705 g lean minced beef or lamb
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
5 eggs
500 g filo pastry
180 g butter, melted

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until it is soft. Add the minced meat, stirring and breaking it well apart during the cooking. Add cinnamon, allspice, ginger and pepper and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is well cooked and lump free. Add parsley. Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and pour over the meat. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until egg mixture takes on a creamy consistency. Adjust taste if necessary. Cool.

Preheat oven to 150°C.
Cut each sheet of filo into three equal-sized rectangles. Stack up and cover with a damp cloth until filling is ready. Brush the top rectangle with melted butter and place a teaspoon of filling along one of the short edges. Fold in the long edges and near end of pastry around the filling and roll up into a cigar shape. Repeat until all the pastry squares are filled.

Place the cigars side by side on a greased baking tray and brush with melted butter. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cigars are golden. Serve hot.

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Notes and review:
As usual, I only made half a recipe. I forgot to buy parsley, so I had to leave it out. I don’t think it mattered much, perhaps a note of veggie freshness that was missing. Another time I would like to try cilantro. The meat I used was beef.

The filo sheets I got can’t have been the same size as those available in Australia (where the book was published) – they must have been bigger, because when divided in three, each rectangle of dough was enough for a tablespoon of filling, rather than the stated teaspoon. With a teaspoon of filling the rolls would have been cigarette slender and I would have run out of dough before half the filling was used up. I got 14 rolls out of 6 whole sheets of dough (270 grams) – it should have been more but the outermost sheet of filo was too torn up to use, and I only got 2 rolls out of the second sheet. When the dough was used up I still had enough filling left for at least six more rolls.

The preparation and cooking went well, apart from one minor burn due to working too close to a hot stove (my first kitchen injury since I started this recipe challenge). There is quite a bit of work involved in rolling up the “cigars”, but it’s worth it.

The filling is good on its own and I think with the addition of cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano it would make a very good pasta sauce. With added tomatoes it could be made into a fairly authentic meat sauce for moussaka.

The amount of spices given in the recipe gives the mince a mild flavour and can safely be increased. I recommend adjusting the flavour after the beaten eggs have been added. I also recommend adding some salt.

This is a great party dish, perfect finger food that's small enough for nibbling on. It can be prepared ahead and frozen once the rolls are all rolled, before the second cooking stage. I think it would be nice served with a sweet dip of some sort, perhaps sweet chilli sauce, sweet and sour sauce or even redcurrant jelly.

While I did like these meat-filled bourek, I kept thinking how delicious they would be filled with cheese, perhaps feta, fresh goat’s cheese or even Roquefort, and as a matter of fact they often are made with a cheese filling. Next time, I think I will try just that.

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