Cook N Bake Moroccan Series: Almond Briouats

Rometti Limoncello Cook N Bake Moroccan Series Almond Briouats

After four delicious yet filling Moroccan dishes, we hope that you still have a little bit of room for the last course of our Moroccan meal: Almond Briouats.
Moroccan cuisine presents a large variety of finger food, served as appetizers as well as entrees. Among the other dishes we find the extremely popular briouats, pastries made of the thin warga (a thin phyllo sheet, as seen in last week’s blog) filled with meat or fruit, folded in a triangular or cylindrical shape and then fried or baked. Powder sugar or spices are often sprinkled on top of them before serving.
Almond Briouats are one of the most popular versions, consumed both during special occasions and as an occasional snack with a cup of tea. This dish is simply addicting with its orange and cinnamon taste covered often with honey to increase the sweetness and savor.
If you don’t have warga we remind you that you can always use phillo dough, which you can cut in stripes and fold into triangles, or if you prefer you can roll up in cylinders (similar to spring rolls).

Make Almond Briouats for a house warming party, for your kids, as dessert after dinner, or simply as a snack that can always come handy during long work days. Wherever, whenever, it’s always time for a little Almond Briouat!
Ingredients:

For the Filling
1 kg (2 lb. 3 oz.) almonds
400 g (1 3/4 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon mastic or gum arabic powder
125 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
80 ml (1/3 cup) orange flower water

For Folding the Briouats
1 kg warqa
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 or 2 egg yolks

For Cooking the Briouats
vegetable oil, for frying
1.25 kg (45 oz.) honey
1 to 2 tablespoons orange flower water
Blanch and peel the almonds. Leave to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

Fry half of the blanched almonds. (Leave the other 1/2 kg of almonds raw.) To fry the almonds, heat about 1/4″ of vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Fry the almonds in batches, stirring constantly, until light to medium golden brown. Each batch should take 5 minutes or longer, providing the oil isn’t too hot. Don’t allow the almonds to get any darker, as they’ll continue to color once removed from the oil. Transfer the almonds to a strainer or tray lined with paper towels and leave to cool.

Grind the almonds with the sugar. In a food processor, grind the fried almonds with about half of the sugar until they turn to paste. Turn out the almond paste into a bowl or onto a large tray, and repeat the grinding with the blanched almonds and remaining sugar.

Mix the almond paste filling. Combine the ground almonds and sugar with the cinnamon, salt, gum arabic powder, butter and orange flower water. Use your hands to mix and knead the paste thoroughly.

Shape the almond paste into balls. Roll all of the almond paste into equal-sized balls. For the small 5 cm briouats shown above, the balls were made cherry-sized. You can make them larger if you want a larger pastry.

Fold the briouats. Enclose each ball of almond paste in a strip of warqa dough. For cherry-sized balls, use approximately a 5 cm wide strip of dough.

Spread the center of the strip with a little melted butter and place the almond paste filling near the bottom. Wrap up the bottom of the dough to enclose the filling, and shape the triangle by folding the filling – up to the right and then left – until you reach the end of the dough. Each time you fold, you’ll be flipping the bottom corner of the triangle up to the opposite edge of the dough. Trim the excess dough to make a neat flap, dab a little egg yolk on the flap to help seal and tuck it into the fold.

Fry the briouats and soak them in honey. Heat 1/4″ to 1/2″ of oil in a deep frying pan. At the same time, heat 1 kg of honey mixed with 1 tablespoon of orange flower water in a second pot. Remove the honey from the heat when it is quite hot and becomes lightly foamy on top.

Fry the briouat in batches in the hot oil, stirring gently and turning over several times, until light golden brown. On average, this should take from 5 to 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the fried pastries directly from the oil to the hot honey.

Soak the first batch of pastries in the hot honey while you fry the second batch of briouats. Occasionally submerge the briouats by pushing down on them gently. When the next batch of briouats is almost ready to be removed from the oil, transfer the ones which have been soaking in honey to a strainer.

As you work with the remaining batches of briouats the volume of honey will decrease as it’s absorbed by the pastries. You’ll find that instead of submerging the pastries, you’ll need to turn them over several times to ensure that they’re getting coated with honey. If the honey eventually seems to cool and thicken, heat it again to thin it. You can also add more honey to the pot if you find it easier to work that way.

Cool and store the briouats.

After the briouats have drained for a few minutes, transfer them to a platter or tray to finish cooling. Leave them for an hour or longer to cool thoroughly before storing.

The briouats can be kept in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for a month, or in the freezer for several months. If storing in the freezer, place a sheet of plastic wrap between layers to make it easy to remove only as many cookies as you need.

~Enjoy!

Recipe from http://moroccanfood.about.com
Image from http://friendseat.com

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Cook N Bake Moroccan Series: Chicken Bestila

Rometti Limoncello Cook N Bake Moroccan Series Bestila

Like any other country Morocco also has its own special dish for special occasions, a culinary rich and elaborated delicacy prepared mainly for weddings and holidays, a traditional dish that looks like a dessert with the powder sugar sprinkled on top but does not taste sweet at all. Inside, in fact, you will find, wrapped in layers of warga (a Moroccan phyllo leaf), either pigeon or chicken.
Bestila, or bastila, is the Arabic word that comes from the Spanish pastilla after transforming the “p” into a “b”, and means indeed “bread”, “pastel”. Bestila seems to have something in common with the Mediterranean cuisine. As a matter of fact, although the name derives from Spanish language, there are traces of Bestila all over Europe. You can find a similar dish in the Andalusia region of Spain, but also in the Middle East were pastelis is a pie stuffed with beef, pine nuts and onions. French also has a similar dish in Corsica where bastella is a meat and vegetable pie.
Bestila is usually made with pigeons, however chicken has become more

common due to its easier availability. To make the filling, the meat is shredded and browned in oil. After removing the meat from the pan, onions, parsley, spices and water are added to the oil and cooked. The mixture is left to chill and beaten eggs added to make a sauce. Eventually the meat is added, including the skin, and left to chill for hours, usually overnight. It is only after this long process that you can start assembling the warga or phyllo dough brushed with butter, bake them and sprinkle some powdered sugar on top.
If you love cooking and challenge yourself with such an elaborated and tremendously delicious dish, or if for various reasons your Valentine’s Day dinner shifted to the weekend giving you lots of time to plan your menu, then Besila is the dish that will test your skills and yet will leave your significant other longing for more!

Ingredients:

1 whole, large chicken, cut into pieces, skin and fat removed
2 very large sweet white onions, chopped medium
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant)
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 eggs, beaten

2 cups whole blanched almonds
vegetable oil, for frying the almonds
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons orange flower water
1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/2 kg (about 1 lb.) warqa or phyllo dough
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg yolk, beaten

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons cinnamon
Preparation:

Cook the Chicken

Mix the chicken with onion, spices, butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven. Cover, and cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the chicken is very tender and falls off the bone. Do not add water, and be careful not to burn the chicken or the sauce as this will ruin the dish.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate, and reduce the sauce in the pot until most of the liquids have evaporated and the onions form a mass in the oil. Stir occasionally, and adjust the heat as necessary to prevent burning.

While the sauce is reducing and the chicken is still warm, pick the meat off the bones, breaking it into small 2″ pieces. Stir in several spoonfuls of the onion mixture, cover the meat, and set aside.

Cook the Egg Stuffing

Transfer the remaining reduced onions and oil to a large non-stick skillet. Add the cilantro, and simmer for a minute or two. Add the beaten eggs, and cook as you would an omelet or scrambled eggs. Be patient, as it will take up to ten minutes for the eggs to set. Some oil separating from the eggs is OK. Set the egg stuffing aside.

Make the Almond Topping

Heat 1/2″ of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat for about five minutes, or until the oil is hot. Test the oil by dropping in an almond. If tiny bubbles rapidly rise around the almond within a few seconds, the oil is ready. If the oil boils and splatters immediately, it’s too hot.

Fry the almonds in batches, stirring constantly, until golden brown. As soon as the almonds are richly colored, transfer them to a tray lined with paper towels to drain and cool. Fried almonds will continue to darken a bit after frying, so be careful not to burn them while they’re in the oil.

When the almonds have cooled completely, pulse them in a food processor until finely ground. Put them in a mixing bowl, and with your hands work in the powdered sugar, orange flower water, and tablespoon of butter. Set aside.

Assemble the Bastilla

Generously oil a 14″ or larger round pan. If you don’t have a round pan, work on an oiled flat baking sheet or large plate, and shape a circular pie as best you can.

Brush melted butter on each sheet of warqa or phyllo dough as you work. If using phyllo, take care to keep it covered with plastic as you work since it dries out very quickly.

Using your pan as a guide, overlap three or four single layers of warqa (shiny side down) – or double layers of phyllo dough – in a circular fashion, so that the inner halves of the pastry dough overlap in the center, and the excess dough drapes over the edges of the pan. (Remember to butter each layer of dough.)

Place one buttered 12″ circle of warqa, or two 12″ buttered circles of phyllo, in the center of the pan. This forms the bottom of the pie.

Cover the 12″ circle with the chicken filling, and distribute the egg stuffing over the chicken.

Top the egg stuffing with another buttered 12″ circle of warqa (shiny side up), or two 12″ buttered circles of phyllo. Spread the almond topping over this layer of dough.

Fold the excess dough up and over the almonds to enclose the pie. Flatten and smooth any bulky areas.

Brush butter on the folded edges of dough, and top with three more overlapping layers of warqa (shiny side up) or phyllo, brushing butter on each layer. Fold down the edges of dough and carefully tuck them underneath the pie, molding and shaping the bastilla as you go.

Use your hands to spread the egg yolk over the top and sides of the pie. Lightly oil the bastilla in the same manner.

The bastilla is now ready for baking. It can be covered in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for up to a day, or in the freezer for up to two months.
Bake the Bastilla

Preheat an oven to 350° F (180° C). Place the bastilla on an oiled flat baking sheet in the middle of the oven, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Note that a bastilla placed into the oven directly from the freezer will take up to an hour to bake.

Garnish and Serve

Generously coat the bastilla with sifted powdered sugar. Sift the cinnamon on top of the sugar, or use the cinnamon to decorate the top of the pie.

Serve immediately.
~Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of http://moroccanfood.com

Cook N Bake Moroccan Series: Tajine of Lamb with Olives and Argan Oil

Rometti Limoncello Cook N Bake Moroccan Series Tajine of Lamb with Olives and Argan Oil

If you have ever been in a true Moroccan restaurant you must have had noticed that lots of dishes are called tajine. This week, may I introduce you to a great, healthy and tasty dish called Tajine of Lamb and Olives with Argan oil.
Tajine (or tagine) is in fact one of the most popular -if not the most popular!- North African dish that takes its name from the earthenware, made of painted or glazed clay, pot used to cook it. This earthenware is made of a flat base and a cone-shaped top lid that stays on the base during the cooking process, to be removed only before serving.
When you make a tajine you have to braise, slow cook the food at low temperatures and for a few hours. Lamb and chicken are the most common ingredients found in tajine dishes, together with apples, apricots, raisins, olives, prunes, nuts and of course spices such as paprika, cumin, pepper, turmeric, saffron, etc.
Argan oil, which is the third main ingredient in our dish, is made from the kernels of the argan tree and is very popular in Moroccan cuisine because of its nutritive properties. It seems in fact that argan oil contributes to prevent cardiovascular diseases, obesity and some kinds of cancer. Moreover, studies show that cholesterol can be reduced with the intake of argan oil.
If you want to impress your friends with a simple, exotic, succulent dish, then tajine is the perfect choice for you!

Ingredients:
2 lbs. (about 1 kg) lamb, cut into 2″ to 3″ pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped medium
1 tablespoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1/3 cup argan oil
small hanful of cilantro sprigs, tied together
1/2 cup green olives with pits
1 cup water

Layer the sliced onions on the bottom of a tajine. In a bowl, mix the meat with the chopped onion and spices, and add the mixture to the tagine along with the water, argan oil and olives. Place the cilantro bouquet on top of the meat.

Cover the tajine, and place it on a diffuser over medium-low heat. It will take some time for the tajine to reach a simmer, but once it does, leave it undisturbed for about three hours, using the lowest heat necessary to maintain the simmer.

There’s no need to open the tajine unless you smell something burning. In that case, the heat was likely too high and a little water will need to be added to prevent scorching.

After the tajine has cooked for three hours, check on the meat. It should be very tender and easy to break apart with your fingers. If necessary, cook longer. When the meat is tender, reduce any excess liquid, and serve.

It’s Moroccan tradition to serve the dish directly from the tajine in which it was cooked. It’s best scooped up with crusty bread, with each person eating from his own side of the dish.

Recipe courtesy of http://moroccanfood.about.com

Cook N Bake Moroccan Series: Kefta Brochette

Rometti Limoncello Cook N Bake Moroccan Series Kefta Brochette

The journey through Moroccan cuisine continues, and this week we are going to taste another simple yet extremely flavorful dish that plays a common ground in the Middle Eastern cuisine as it is not popular only in Morocco but throughout the Middle East: Kefta Brochette.
Kefta means ground meat, which could be either beef or lamb, or a mix, both very much appreciated in the whole country. Kefta can be made in a variety of different ways, with eggs and vegetables, raisin, rice, and of course Kefta is often used as one of the main ingredients in tajine dishes. Moroccan people call what we daily call kebab, brochette, which is a French word (French is the second most spoken language in Morocco) to indicate the small skewer used to roast meat and vegetables. What makes Moroccan Kefta Brochette different than any other meat kebab we might be used to is the seasoning: paprika, coriander, cumin, onions, parsley, hot ground pepper, and additional herbs to taste (some people like to add mint).
These delicious brochettes can be served as a side dish, appetizer, or even as a sandwich filler. They pair very well with roasted pepper and tomatoes, however Greek Yoghurt is also a suitable mild accompaniment.

Ingrediens:

1 lb. (about 1/2 kg) ground beef or lamb (or a combination of the two)
3 ounces (about 100 g) beef or lamb fat (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped very fine
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, and leave for an hour or longer to allow the flavors to blend. The kefta is then ready to shape and cook.

To make kebabs, take small amounts of kefta and shape them into cylinder or sausage shapes. Skewer the meat, squeezing it to mold it the skewer.

Cook over hot coals, approximately five minutes each side. (It may take less or more time, depending on how hot the coals are, and how thick you shaped the kefta.) Watch the kebabs carefully, so you don’t dry out the kefta.

Serve immediately, or wrap in aluminum foil to keep hot while you cook additional kebabs.
Recipe courtesy of http://moroccanfood.com
IMage © Hall/photocuisine/Corbis

Cook N Bake Moroccan Series: Harira {soup}

Rometti Limoncello Cook N Bake Moroccan Series Harira

Rometti is excited to announce that this week we are going to take you back to the Mediterranean, to a mesmerizing country that will enchant you with colors, textures, mystique smells and natural beauties. Its cuisine is quite refined, although very simple, and reflects all the characteristic of the culture through its combination of spices and contrasting ingredients. For the next five weeks our Cook N Bake blog will feature Moroccan cuisine.

Thanks to its location Morocco has always been exposed to foreign interactions that contributed to influencing along with the culture also the cuisine. Regardless of the harsh climate which changes from North to South, especially going towards the interior regions of the country, Moroccan coastal side allows the development of agriculture which remains one of its main financial resources. Fruits and vegetables are fundamental in Moroccan cuisine, and so are beef, lamb, chicken, rabbit, pork (prohibited during Muslim restrictions), camel and seafood. But the main culinary characteristic is to attribute to the use of a large variety and heavy quantity of spices like kefta (cinnamon), cumin, turmeric, saffron, coriander, mint, lemon and orange flavors. These are present both in food and beverages. As a matter of fact meals, especially if formal, usually end with a cup of sweet mint tea.

To start our journey we selected a delicious starter to a Moroccan meal: Harira, a tomato and lentil soup seasoned with pepper, cinnamon, ginger, onion, celery, cilantro, and parsley. A nutritional, healthy, yet extremely flavored dish typical of Ramadan, when it is served at sunset.
Moroccans prepare this soup in a lot of different ways: ingredients may include chick peas, vermicelli or rice, as well as lemon juice or men (preserved butter). Eggs and meat can also be added, it really depends on the regions, local tradition and preferences.
Harira can be served with dried fruits like dates (very popular in Morocco), homemade bread, and hard-broiled eggs.

You can pick your own ingredients, we pickd ours and hope that you will enjoy this warming Harira soup as a starter or as a delicious meal.
Ingredients:

– 1 lb. lamb, cut into small cubes
– 1 teaspoon turmeric
– 1 teaspoon pepper
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon ginger
– 2 Tablespoons butter
– 3/4 cup chopped celery and leaves
– 2 onions, chopped
– 1/2 cup parsley and cilantro, chopped
– 1 2-lb. can of tomatoes, chopped
– salt
– 3/4 cup lentils
– 1 cup chickpeas (canned are fine)
– 1/4 cup fine soup noodles
– 2 eggs, beaten with the juice of 1/2 lemon

Put the lamb (or beef), spices, butter, celery, onion, and parsley/cilantro in a large soup pot and stir over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomato pieces, and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes. Salt lightly.
Add the juice from the tomatoes, 7 cups of water, and the lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 2 hours.
When ready to serve, add the chickpeas and noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Then, with the soup at a steady simmer, stir the lemony eggs into the stock with a long wooden spoon. Continue stirring slowly, to create long egg strands and to thicken the soup. Season to taste. ladle into bowls and dust with cinnamon(optional). Squeeze in some lemon. Before serving makes sure that the meat is tender.
Serve with some dates (Medjool dates are recommended).

~Enjoy!
Recipe from http://www.grouprecipes.com
Image from www.bbcgoodfood.com