I am sitting in this small and friendly Moroccan cafe in Central London with very intimate and small seating area with all Moroccan furniture. Everyone who orders anything, asks for the bowl of chilli to be passed on to them. One bowl of chilli exchanged 4 tables as I sat there tucking into my falafel salad with this chilli sauce. The heat of the chilli and the spices made everything taste so much better.
The chilli sauce was infact Harissa. I have fallen in love with this fiery sauce since then and have so far tried it in burgers and as a rub on fish. This sauce is not native to Morocco, but was introduced to this region by the neighbouring Tunisia and Algeria. It is a hot dried chilli paste with added flavours of garlic, cumin and coriander. I am trying to find some African dried chillies and then will aim to post the recipe of home-made Harissa paste soon.
Lamb filo cigars
This recipe is adapted from The Food of Morocco featuring a good dose of Moroccan food history and beautiful pictures. The recipes are very authentic as well. Three things attracted me to this recipe; the use of harissa, incorporating a raw egg in the mince filling and the addition of saffron.
Olive oil 1tbsp
Onion 1 (small and finely chopped)
Minced lamb 350gm
Garlic paste 1tsp
Ground cumin 1tsp
Ground ginger 1/2tsp
Ground cinnamon 1/2tsp
Saffron thread 1 pinch (soaked in a little warm water)
Harissa paste 1tsp
Green coriander (chopped) 2tbsp
Mint (chopped) 1tbsp
Filo sheets 8-12
Butter (melted) 90gm
Sesame seeds 1tbsp (optional)
- Let's first make the filling. Fry the onion in the olive oil until translucent and soft.
- Add the lamb with garlic and cook till it is nicely browned breaking any lumps. This takes about 5-7 minutes.
- Next add all the spices, saffron, salt and stir it for about 3 minutes, followed by the coriander and mint. Cook for one minute and leave to cool.
- When the mixture has cooled, break the egg and mix well. Leave aside.
- You will need 8-12 sheets of filo and how you cut them depends on the size of your sheets. For each cigar you need one sheet of filo pastry measuring about 14cm wide and 30cm long. I had to cut my filo sheet in half lengthways to get that size.
- Place a strip of filo on the work surface with the narrow end facing you and brush with melted butter.
- Spread the filling making sure you leave atleast 1cm from the edges of the pastry. I used about 1tbsp of filling each.
- First fold the narrow end over the filing, then fold in the sides and roll into a thin and tight cigar shape.
- Place the rolls seam side down on the baking tray. Brush with some more butter and sprinkle with some sesame seeds (optional).
- Bake in a pre-heated oven 180C (160C fan) for about 20-30 minutes till light brown.
- Cover filo pastry with a moist kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.
- Try different fillings. A vegetarian option would be a mixture of feta, mint and spinach.
- Are you brave enough to attempt filo pastry from scratch? Have a look at lovely Lauren's post here.
- Vegetarian version of filo cigars. And something seasonal with asparagus.
- Or why not try a sweeter version.