Friday, September 07, 2007

a traditional sefardi holiday appetizer

small deep-fried little parcels of brik (ouarka, malsouka, feuilles de dioul) or phyllo pastry sheets are one of the ne plus ultra appetizers on a sephardic table. always served at any celebration or holiday, they are formed into different shapes and can be either sweet or savoury. cigares and pasteles (pass-tell (ez)) are usually made and served in (very) large numbers, as people tend to go through them like no tomorrow. they also show off the cook's skills as it takes a good filling and adept hands to fill and fry these little bundles.

in reality, it is not the so much the difficulty level in making these as it is the time it takes to make them that seems to be a deterrent. with the way things are today, many will buy them ready made from a caterer or shop specializing in this type of fare. they are, however, still made at home in many families, especially as the holidays approach.

as the name cigare indicates, these pastries are formed into small tubular shapes like that of a cigar. what about pasteles? well, the name derives from pastel, which in spanish means something akin to a pie. the traditional sephardi moroccan shape is that of a triangle. pastel, however does not just mean this type of appetizer ..... but that's for another discussion, another time.

the filling for these appetizers, called la miga, is cooked beforehand. this serves two purposes: to dry up any liquids preventing leakage and weakening the pastry and to have a filling which is already precooked. the pastry would overcook and blacken by the time the filling would cook completely had it been raw. additionally, as a matter of refinement, the filling is also ground very finely after it is cooked.

in this case, the filling is a meat one. of course, for you non-meat eaters, other fillings can be substituted. the only thing is that it must be one which will cook by the same time the wrapper is cooked. a tvp product can substitute for the meat here for a parve alternative with excellent results, also.

cigares & pasteles à la viande
sephardi meat filled appetizers

makes 2 - 3 dozen (who knows, i've never counted!)


la miga (filling) —

version 1:

1 1/2 lb ground beef or lamb
2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 - 2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp mace (opt)
1/2 tsp cayenne powder or 1 tsp harissa (more or less)
1 1/2 - 2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 c water

1/4 c browned pine nuts, opt
1/3 c chopped parsley or coriander

version 2:

1 - 1 1/2 lb ground beef or lamb
1 - 2 onions, chopped
1 - 2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric
3 - 4 bay leaves (remove after cooking meat)
1 tsp harissa or cayenne powder (or to taste)
oil as needed for frying meat
1/2 c water
1/2 lemon, juiced

(follow same method for cooking & grinding below)

* * * * *

10 - 12 sheets of brik (ouarka) pastry OR,
phyllo sheets

egg for egg wash
oil for frying


make the filling as follows —

fry the pine nuts until lightly browned and set aside.

chop onion finely and saute until translucent. add the meat and spices, 1/2 c water and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat. put a lid on and keep the pan covered for about 15 minutes. remove the lid and cook until it dries. you may need to up the heat near the end. do not burn it.

let the meat cool completely and either put it in a processor or through a meat grinder until finely ground. add the pine nuts and parsley or coriander. taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

set it aside covered for later.

both pastelikos and cigares start from a single sheet of brik. one can make 4 cigares from 1 sheet of brik or 2 pastelikos.

for les cigares:

cut the sheets equally into quarters and stack and cover them so they don't dry out.

take one sheet in front of you with the point facing upwards.

place a tablespoon or so of filling in the center and shape it into a little sausage shape about a 1/2 inch from the bottom of the pastry sheet.

now either fold both ends in as so:

or like this (my preferred method):

i.e.: fold up the sheet from the bottom to cover the meat and then fold in either side.

roll them up which ever method you choose.


with some beaten egg, paint the top of the point and roll the pastry closed tightly.

set them aside on a plate covered or freeze them at this point.

for pastelikos:

take a sheet of brik and fold it in half and crease.

cut along the crease to make 2 halves.

now, with the long side facing upwards, fold the sheet so that the two tops meet (see photo):

place a tablespoon of the filling on the end of the folded pastry and fold over.

now start to fold carefully keeping all the filling in (it will close up on its own as it rolls).

do this until you get to the end.

now the harder part — closing it up. this will take some practice on your part and will depend on how you rolled your pasteliko. when you get near the end, paint one side with egg and then tuck any ends in neatly. it may be a bit stubborn. you can always snip off the loose end.

place down on the side that you painted with egg so that the sides adhere to each other.

set aside covered or freeze right away for later.

deep fry on medium heat. very important: your heat MUST be the correct temperature for deep frying or the pastry will absorb the oil and it will become disgustingly greasy. fry for about 2 or 3 minutes per side until golden brown.

drain well on paper towel and serve. they go well with tomato based sauces or harissa, etc.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love that dish! I've made it with beef and lamb, but I must say that I ever so slightly prefer the lamb version... Spicy and tasty!

burekaboy — said...

rosa - how come it doesn't surprise me that you've made these?! LOL. glad you like! lamb is very good but it's not so common here as not everyone is crazy about it. usually it's always made with beef.

Anonymous said...

Yummmmmm! I will make this during Ramadan with soup. :-) Looking at your pictures is making me hungry before I sleep. lol

burekaboy — said...

hi jamila - i doubt these are new to you ;p (i think you call them beztel?) hope you like. we usually serve these before the meal ... they're often very spicy.

Anonymous said...

Wow! For a non-Sephardi, you seem to know all the trade secrets! Love cigars. My M-I-L makes pasteles with the meat filling covered with mashed potatoes as well. Great for Pesach.


burekaboy — said...

hey deanna - LOL, i think u meant non-moroccan ;p i always end up eating a ton of these -- the spicy tuna ones are great, too. as for the other pasteles, come to think of it, i actually posted something at passover but called them by their other name (croquettes).

Anonymous said...

In Algeria they are called boureks :-)

We eat them with our soup for breaking our fast.

I'm thinking about food again before I sleep, lol!

burekaboy — said...

hey jamila - boureks doesn't surprise me one bit ;p the algerian family i knew used to call them beztel (i guess from pastel) -- probably a jewish thing.

i have to make these tomorrow for our holiday on wed/thur. ramadan actually falls the same time rosh hashanah does this year. hope you have an easy fast for the holiday :)

better you're thinking about food than paying the bills!! :)

Anonymous said...

I hope you have a nice holiday! I found that throughout Algeria everyone calls them something different, which I didn't know. :-)

burekaboy — said...

jamila - thanks :) i'll be looking forward to seeing all the good things you'll be making this month! ramadan mubarak.