One of my favourite things to eat is Mezze. I sometimes think all meals should come to us on platters, laden with hummus, falafel, assorted olives, Baba Ganoush, all manner of kebaby things, and stuff that’s been wrapped up in filo pastry, not to mention the freshly baked pitta bread. When heading out for Middle Eastern, with my friends, it’s not unheard of for the waiters to have to restrain us when we’re ordering. You see their eye-brows begin to raise about half way through our order, and before we’ve got to the end they’ve politely suggested we may be over doing it. To be honest, this isn’t strictly limited to Mezze. At our favourite Indian the waiter always has to reign us in. Sometimes we make a stand, yes, we know what we want and we will be having that extra rice/nann/five starters. On these occasions we are left shame faced, picking at a table of half eaten plates, having to admit that yes, maybe we did ever so slightly over order. Somehow though, with Mezze, we always manage to eat it all.
The other day I found myself in the tricky situation of having left over filo pastry from baking chicken and ham tangle pie. Now in Hong Kong filo is a pricey imported luxury, far too good to waste and so I had no choice but to make one of my favourite Mezze items, Moroccan Cigars. These are delicious little nibbles, minced beef or lamb, spiced with the aroma’s of the middle east and wrapped in crispy filo pastry.
150g lean beef mince
6 sheets of filo pastry
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tbsp chopped tinned tomatoes (about half the tin, drained)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cinammon
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried chilli flakes to taste
In a pan, add a splash of olive oil and gently cook the chopped garlic and cumin seeds for a few minutes. Be careful not to let it burn.
Add in the mince and cook, stirring regularly, until browned.
Add in the chopped tomatoes and all the spices, including lots of ground black pepper. Add dried chilli flakes according to how much spice you like, I used about 1/4 of a teaspoon. Leave to cook down for a few minutes until there is hardly any liquid in the pan. You need the filling to be quite dry or it will soak through the pastry.
Take your filo pastry sheets and lay them on a board, one on top of each other. Cut down the middle, so you have two stacks of rectangles. On a separate board or work surface, lay out one layer of pastry. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat it with oil. Take another layer of pastry and put it on top. Now put about two or three teaspoons of your mince mixture on one end of the pastry. The picture shows quite a small cigar, but they are actually better fatter, stuffed with more filling. Carefully, tightly roll the pastry around the mince forming a tube shape. As you get about half way down the rectangle, fold the sides in and continue rolling. Use a little oil at the end of the pastry to help it stick together. You should have a cigar shaped tube!
Put your cigars onto a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush with a little more oil. Bake for about 25 minutes until crispy and golden.
Eat dunked in hummus or spiced yoghurt. Dream of the Middle East.