Monday, April 18, 2011
Chaldean Meat Pies
I try to keep my food blog only about Algerian/ Moroccan and North African cuisine in general, but when something as memorable as these little pockets of scrumptiousness cross my path and my belly, I can only make an exception and share it with you all.
A couple of weeks ago, I fell head over heels for a cuisine I have never sampled before: Chaldean cuisine; or Iraqi cuisine with Chaldean flair as the cookbook presents the recipes. I was invited to a local Chaldean event and from the appetizers to the desserts everything was mouthwatering, delicious and new to me. While some of the dishes were your common Middle Eastern and Lebanese dishes, a lot of them had some variations
using different spices and cooking techniques. I usually loathe Lebanese Baklava (Algerian Baklava is completely different) Chaldean Baklava is a poem: it is made with walnuts, already after my own heart, and spiced with cardamom and just the right dose of rose water and sugar. It is magnificent! And there was the eggplant casserole, very similar to the Greek Moussaka, but with minced beef, instead of ground, and spiced with a distinctive Chaldean Allspice, called Baharat. Baharat, available at most Middle Eastern Stores, is a blend of ground allspice, cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, dried rose petal powder and ground black pepper. It is very fragrant and pungent and goes so well with red meat, chicken, vegetables and rice.
Those golden triangles you see are some irresistible meat pies. They are little scented pillows that enclose ground beef spiced with baharat, curry powder, onions and jalapeno for some spiciness. The dough is very soft and scented with fennel seeds, anise seeds, nigela seeds, sesame seeds and ground cardamom. The process, though simple, is a bit time consuming but every bit of it is worth the effort and minutes once your lips will yield to the aromas and your house filled with exotic spices. I recommend making the dough the day ahead as it will give the dough more time to rest and the flavors to mingle.
Chaldean Beef Meat Pies (Takhratha 'd Pursa)
Makes about 40-50 meat pies depending on size
For the dough:
- 1/2 package active-dry yeast or 1 tsp active-dry yeast
- 2 tbsp warm water
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 1/2 pounds all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp Dough Spices (same measure of sesame seeds, nigela seeds, fennel seeds, anise seeds and 1 tsp ground cardamom)
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2/3 cups canola oil
- 1/2 stick butter, melted
- 2 1/2 cups milk, combined with 1 can (5 ounces) Carnation Milk.
For the meat filling:
- 3 lb ground beef
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp baharat spice
- ½ jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 egg and 1 tbsp water for the egg wash
Dissolve yeast with water plus sugar. Let stand for 5-7 minutes until becomes foamy.
Pour flour into large deep mixing bowl. Add dough spices, salt and mix.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and add melted butter, milk, oil, yeast mixture. Rub flour with hands until flour is evenly coated. Begin kneading, adding more flour or water as needed, for 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 1 1/2 hour or until doubled in size. Punch lightly to deflate. Knead quickly and put back in the bowl to rise. Cover and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
Heat the canola oil in a frying pan. Cook ground beef with remaining ingredients. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into little balls and roll out each dough into a circle to make your triangles. Shape the meat pies as shown on the photos. Seal well by pinching with your fingers. Brush on egg wash onto each triangle and place seam down on your prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes, or until they are nicely browned. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a rack.
Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store in freezer bags to keep its freshness and for the dough to remain soft.