Ouzi: phyllo pastries with meat and rice filling
This is a comfort food typically eaten in Damascus. The pastries make an impression and are beautiful to present. Every guest is served their own small, savoury ouzi, as though made especially with them in mind. As a child, I ate these often when we were invited to my parents’ friends’ house. They came from the capital city and I thought it was exciting to visit them, wondering: would they serve ouzi pastries again?
WHAT YOU NEED
2 tablespoons of olive oil
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) of minced beef
1 tablespoon of 7 spices blend
100 g (½ cup) of rice (rinsed)
½ teaspoon of ground cardamom
500 ml (2 cups) of beef stock
Salt and pepper
200 g (7 oz) of frozen peas
100 g (3½ oz) of toasted nuts (almonds, cashews, pine nuts)
20 sheets of phyllo dough (approx 20 x 25 cm [8 x 10 inch])
Olive oil to cover
1 handful of pistachios
WHAT TO DO
Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat. Break the minced beef up into small pieces with a wooden spoon and brown for 7 minutes. Stir in the 7 spices blend.
Mix the rice and cardamom into the minced beef and add the beef stock. Add salt and pepper, and continue cooking the rice for 15 minutes, or until most of the stock has been absorbed.
Stir the peas and the toasted nuts into the cooked rice. Warm everything for another minute and then turn the heat off, cover and let the pilaf rest for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Make the pastries by using a little bowl or cup (9 cm [3½ inch] diameter). Make a double layer of 2 sheets of phyllo dough, fold them in half and brush on some olive oil to help them stick together. Line the little bowl or cup with this double layer of dough to form a phyllo cup.
Fill the phyllo cup with the pilaf and press on the rice with the round part of a spoon. Fold the excess dough hanging at the edges over the rice to cover. Seal the phyllo edges by brushing once more with some olive oil. Turn the pastry out onto a plate. Repeat to form the other pastries in the same way.
Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Prepare a baking tray with baking paper, set the pastries on the baking paper and then brush with olive oil. Bake for 15–20 minutes, until they are a nice golden brown. Garnish the pastries with a pistachio and eat them warm.