Monday, June 9, 2008

Lebanese Lamb and Pinenut Phyllo Pie

I have been having a bit of a burst of Lebanese food in the last week with dinners at Zum zum in North Carlton and Rumi in East Brunswick. Not surprisingly I ended up getting out my best Lebanese cookbook, The Lebanese Kitchen by Abla Amad. Abla's Restaurant in Carlton has to be one of my all time favourite restaurants in Melbourne. It's small and in a terrace in Carlton. Abla is always there presiding over her kitchen and welcomes everyone as to her home. It's Lebanese family cooking and I have adored it for years, or is it decades? Abla opened it in 1979 so that looks like decades to me.

At Zum zum, I had had some scrumptious dishes and one of them was a bigger version of ladies fingers, a delectable dish of phyllo filled with lamb, onion and pine-nuts. Normally these are literally finger or cigar size, but at Zum zum they were larger and had dribbled pomegranate molasses on the top (I think). At Rumi we had delicious cigar pastries filled with cheese. I wanted to make something like this!

Abla had a recipe for ladies fingers: she said she made them more here in Melbourne where fresh phyllo is always available than in Lebanon. Fresh phyllo is indeed something I always have. So I was ready to try it. I had most of the ingredients and stocked up on lamb mince at my local treasure house, Piedimonte's. Unfortunately they let me down in the sumac line. I simply couldn't get it. Sumac is a red-coloured spice from the berries of the sumac bush and its flavour adds a sharp fruity taste similar to lemon: the illustration here is from Wikipedia. Pomegranate molasses is also on my shopping list but I found a source for that today from a friend who dropped by! How lucky am I in my friends! Thanks, Pamela!

I will pursue the procurement of this but at present I decided to substitute lemon/lime juice and zest for the sumac and increase the other spices. We'll see how it goes! I also decided that, rather than doing umpteen ladies fingers, I would use the filling to make a phyllo pie which would be a main course rather than mezza.

Lebanese Lamb & Pine-nut Phyllo Pie (after Abla Amad, Abla's kitchen)

450 gr. lamb mince
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 onions, chopped
1 teaspoon cummin seeds
1 teaspoon allspice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Juice of half a lemon
Teaspoon lemon zest finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil
7-8 sheets phyllo pastry
Sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 180c, 160 c if fan-forced.
In a pan, cook pine nuts in olive oil until golden.
Drain on kitchen paper.
Place lamb mince in pan and heat gently allowing it to cook in its own juices while stirring constantly.
Add onion, spices, lemon and lime zest and juice.
When onion turns transparent, add pine nuts and remove from heat.
Place phyllo on tea-towel to work from, and add sheets to pan, basting with olive oil as you go.
Add approximately six sheets to the pan.
Pour in filling.
Fold over phyllo, basting with oil.
Add top sheet of phyllo to beautify and baste with olive oil.
Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
Cut into required pieces through upper layer, taking care not to cut right through the pie.
Cook in the middle of a moderate oven for about 45 minutes.
Serve with vegetables or salad for a main course.
Well, all I can say is that it's just yummy! The combination of the crisp phyllo and the lamb inside is just delicious! I have found it delicious in ladies' fingers but it is great in a pie too. I really like the taste of the lemon/lime too! Once I get some sumac I'll try it that way, but at present I am very happy with the outcome.


Chris said...

Oooh, this looks good. We do a bit of Lebanese cooking as well. Bring on the sumac!

Laurie Constantino said...

Absolutely gorgeous! Funny thing, I happen to have all the ingredients on hand. I think it's an omen - I need Lebanese food now!

Polyxena said...

It is yummy, if I say so myself ;>) I have sumac now so I'll have to try the original Abla version now.


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