Monday, March 23, 2009

Lamb pastry packages

You know how some recipes say "spice to taste"? Well, for these lovely little lamb pastries, please please please do not spice to taste. Add whatever vegetables, nuts and herbs you want, but I insist that if you make these you leave in the coriander and cinnamon - they work so well with the lamb and they make the pastries taste (and smell) absolutely heavenly.

I don't normally think of meat as a pastry filling and I especially don't think of it as one that would go with coriander and cinnamon, but there are several Middle Eastern recipes that use meat this way. One of the best dishes like this that I've ever had was at a Moroccan-style restaurant (though the owners were mostly Palestinian and Jordanian); it was a pastry filled with ground meat and topped with powdered sugar, and it was incredible!

Though I left out the powdered sugar, these pastries are a lovely mix of sweet and savory. You could make one big pie and serve it as a main course, or you could make cute little pastry packages, like I did here, and serve them as appetizers. In any case, these are pretty easy to make, and did I mention that they taste fantastic?

150 g. shortcrust pastry dough (see recipe here), or your favorite type of pastry dough
100 g. ground lamb
1 smallish yellow onion
Several sprigs of fresh parsley
A handful of fresh mint
A couple spoonfuls of cashews
A large spoonful of pine nuts
A large spoonful of tomato paste
Olive oil
Coriander (freshly ground if possible)

Preheat the oven to 355º F /180º C. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper to prepare them.

Dice the onion and the cashews. Toast the pine nuts until they are lightly browned. Be sure to watch them to make sure they don't burn. Once the pine nuts are toasted, set them aside in a bowl, along with the cashews.

In the same pan you used for the pine nuts (saves dish-washing), heat some olive oil and then add the onion. After a couple of minutes, when the onion is translucent and soft, add the ground lamb and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the salt, stir, and set aside to cool a bit.

While the lamb is cooling, wash the parsley and mint and chop them finely. Add them to the nuts, along with the ground coriander, cinnamon, and tomato paste. Add in the lamb and onions and mix everything up well.

Take the dough (which was hopefully in the refrigerator), and divide it into two portions. Put one portion back in the refrigerator while you roll out the other portion into a thin, flat sheet. Using a sharp implement, cut the sheet into strips about as wide as your thumb and then divide each strip into squares.

Spoon a small spoonful of the lamb mixture into the center of each square. The mixture is rather crumbly so use your hands to press it together. Be sure not to overload the little squares - you don't want the filling to get out while the pastry is baking!

Fold the corners of the square over the filling into the center to form a little bundle. Press the pastry together to make sure the filling is well-closed in, and then transfer the pastry to the baking sheet. Repeat for all the rest of the squares, then take the rest of the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out into another sheet. Divide into squares as before and spoon the rest of the filling onto the squares. Create the bundles and then bake all the pastries for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven, let cool 10 minutes, and then eat.

No comments: