Mary Kay Radnich
Phyllo dough, that parchment-thin, soft pastry, is used extensively throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East as the basis for many mouthwatering delicacies. Also known as gullash (or strudel dough or filo), the dough may be found fresh in Egyptian bakeries, but most of us in the west use frozen phyllo (or homemade) to re-create these sweet treats.
This paper-thin dough is used for a wide variety of dishes, ranging from mezze
(appetizers) to desserts. Today we will have a look at two recipes, first, a North African specialty, Bariwat or meat parcels, which may be used as mezze or a main course and then, Baklawa, that scrumptious, nuts-and-syrup-soaked pastry dessert.
The making of good Baklawa dough was once the standard by which the worthiness of a young Arabic maiden was judged, to become a wife. Fortunately, anyone is able to pass that test now, with the arrival of frozen food technology and packaged phyllo.
Remember: When working with phyllo, make sure that is it thawed completely AND kept covered with a damp towel to prevent dryness. If you are using frozen Phyllo, be sure to read the instructions on the packaging!
BARIWAT (Meat Parcels)
Morocco, North Africa
I first tasted Bariwat on a sampler plate at the Moroccan Restaurant at Disneys EPCOT in 1996. As with most North African and Middle Eastern food, the unusual combinations of spices with various foods, in this case, cinnamon and beef, makes a most surprisingly delicious treat. I was excited to find this recipe and I am very happy to share it with you.
* 2 medium onions, diced
* 4 Tb. Butter or margarine
* Salt and pepper to taste
* 1 lb. Finely ground lamb or lean beef
* 1 Ts. Paprika
* Pinch cinnamon
* cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
* cup finely chopped parsley
* 5 eggs (or egg substitute equivalent)
* 1 package phyllo dough ( 1 lb.)
* 2 cups cooking oil *
Saute the onions in the butter or margarine, with pepper and salt. Cook on low to medium heat until the onions are light brown. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix the ground meat, pepper and salt, paprika, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of mixed coriander leaves and parsley. Add the meat to the onions and fry until the meat is cooked, breaking the meat up with a fork. Add the rest of the parsley and coriander and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Beat 4 of the eggs. Stir into the meat and cook for 3 minutes or until the eggs are done.
Beat the remaining egg in a bowl and set aside. Cut the phyllo dough into 3 inch strips. Place 1 teaspoon of the meat on the bottom of each strip. Roll the strips into rolls with the edges tucked in. Seal the rolls with the beaten egg spread over the edges and ends. Fry the rolls or bariwats in hot oil until they become golden brown. *Note: you may also bake the meat rolls in a 350F degree oven until golden for a lower fat, lower calorie version.
The bariwats should be eaten hot. They should be sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or dipped in cinnamon sugar for a very exquisite North African taste.
BAKLAWA (The "king" of Arab pastries)
Greek-style Baklava, which is common in the west, uses honey in the syrup. More typical Egyptian Baklawa does not. Recipes for syrup variations are included here.
* 2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
* 1 cup almonds, finely chopped (optional this is found in Greek baklava)
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 cups clarified, melted butter
* 2 Ts. cinnamon
* 1 Tb. Orange blossom water (mazahar)
* 1 package phyllo dough (1 lb. Or 454 gms.)
* Syrup (see below for variations)
Mix the walnuts (and almonds if using), sugar, cup of the butter, cinnamon and orange blossom water, then set aside.
Butter well a 13 x 9 inch baking pan, then set aside.
Taking one sheet of the phyllo dough and place it in the baking dish, then brush with melted butter. Repeat this process until of the dough is used. Then place the walnut mixture of the buttered layers and spread evenly.
Place one layer of dough on the nut layer and brush with melted butter, then continue this until the rest of the dough is used.
Heat the remaining butter, then pour it evenly over the dough. With a sharp knife, carefully cut the pastry into 2 inch squares or diamond shapes. Bake in a preheated oven of 400F for five minutes, then lower the heat to 300F and bake for 30-45 minutes or until the sides are a light shade of brown.
While the baklawa is baking, prepare the syrup and set aside.
* 2 Syrup Variations (choose one for your pastry delight!)
* Egyptian Sugar Syrup or Sharbat
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup water
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons orange blossom water (optional)
Place the sugar and the water in a pot over a medium heat.
Stir constantly for 10 minutes or until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved.
Remove from the heat, then stir in the lemon juice. Return to the heat and bring it to a boil. Remove again and stir in the orange blossom water ( if using ), then allow the syrup to cool until the pastry is ready.
Greek-style Sugar Syrup for Baklava
* 1 cups sugar
* 1 cups water
* cup honey
* Thinly peeled strip of lemon rind
* Small piece of cinnamon bark
* 3 cloves
* 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Place the sugar, water and honey in a heavy pan and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add remaining syrup ingredients, bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes. Strain and cool.
After you have made your syrup, it is important that your pastry is cooked through. You can either broil the top of the pastry briefly, to brown it, or you can cover it with foil if you find that the top is browning too quickly.
Once the pastry is finished and lightly browned, spoon the syrup evenly over the hot baklawa. Let the pastry cool for several hours before cutting again into serving portions.