Thursday, April 19, 2007

Phyllo Triangles with Lamb, Onions and Pine Nuts and a Request for Travel Info

This post may be about Middle Eastern food, but right now I've got bangers & mash, crumpets and pints of Caffrey's on my mind because tomorrow Mike and I are going on a much-anticipated trip to London, followed by a few days in Amsterdam. I went to school in London for a year during college, and I love the city. Mike has never been, so I'll get to show him all my favorite places. We have both been to Europe separately, but this is our first time together. I can't wait, and I'm about to go start packing! If anyone has any good restaurant suggestions for us, or anything else for that matter, please leave a comment! I won't be able to post next week, but come back on April 30th and I'll post pictures from the trip. Now on to the tasty...

For a long time, I was scared of working with phyllo dough. Then, determined to develop my own recipe for spanakopita, I channeled a Greek goddess or two, and took the plunge. By the time I finished, I had a very good spinach pie, and I was laughing at my own hesitation to cook with phyllo.

There’s nothing to it whatsoever! I had made pizza dough and yeast breads, but I was afraid of a cooking with dough that was already done for me? It didn’t make any sense, but was rather a case of fearing the new. Now that I’m over it, I can’t get enough of phyllo dough. If you love appetizers and small plates, phyllo can be your best friend.

These simple little lamb triangles are one of my favorite phyllo creations so far. You just cook up the ground lamb with a chopped onion, add spices and pine nuts, and fold the filling into a piece of phyllo, brushing with melted butter as you go. I find that I never need as much butter as most phyllo recipes call for. You don’t need to cover the dough with pools of it, just enough to lightly coat. You will still get golden, crispy, buttery phyllo.

According to Claudia Roden, this simple filling is a classic Arab preparation. The combination of lamb and Middle Eastern spices is a favorite of mine. The recipe sounds good on paper, but the real thing is so beautifully spiced and flaky that you will want to make them again and again.

Update: Not 10 minutes after posting, it has been brought to my attention that I failed to give due credit to the person who performed the horrible, mind-numbing, tedious task of making all the phyllo triangles himself. My wonderful, culinarily gifted husband did a top-notch one man can have so many talents, I'll never know.

Don't worry if the dough gets a little raggedy; you won't notice once it's baked.

Seal up the edge with a little dab of butter.

Phyllo Triangles with Lamb, Onions and Pine Nuts
Adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

If you do not like lamb or can’t find it, this will work just as well with beef or even ground turkey; although for me, the unique flavor of lamb is one of the best things about this dish. Defrost the phyllo dough in its wrapper and always keep it covered with a kitchen towel once it is unwrapped to prevent it from drying out.

Makes about 20

3-4 tbs. melted butter
8 oz. ground lamb
½ tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ¼ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. allspice
2 tbs. pine nuts, lightly toasted
10 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat two baking sheets with melted butter using a pastry brush. Heat a skillet to medium-high and add the ground lamb. Cook, breaking meat up with a spoon as you go, until lamb is no longer pink. If your lamb is on the fatty side, turn the meat out onto a plate layered with paper towels to drain and pour any fat out of the skillet. Add the oil to the skillet and lower heat to medium. Add the onions and cook until soft and lightly browned. Return the lamb to the skillet and season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice. Stir in the toasted pine nuts and remove from heat.

Place the phyllo sheets on a work surface and cut them in half lengthwise. Keep all the phyllo covered with a kitchen towel so it doesn’t dry out while you make the triangles. Take one strip of phyllo and lightly coat it with melted butter using a pastry brush. Place about one tablespoon of the lamb filling on one end of the strip, about 1 inch from the edge. Fold the end of the dough over the filling, then continue folding the dough over itself in triangle shapes. Seal up the end with a dab of butter, brush a little butter over the top of the triangle and place on one of the baking sheets. Repeat to use up the rest of the filling. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crisp and golden.

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Anita said...

Have a good one Julie! No tips, just 'have fun' wishes!

It truly has been raining Arabia in the blogosphere!

Homesick Texan said...

Phyllo dough is such a terrific resource for amazing dishes. It makes appetizers a snap!

Patricia Scarpin said...

This is posh, Julie!

Brilynn said...

That is an excellent use for phyllo dough, they look great!

Kristen said...

I have several boxes of phyllo waiting to be used but I've been too nervous to use it. I think I have been inspired!

Kirsten said...

Hope your trip is GREAT. Your phyllo fearlessness is inspiring...I may have to try it soon. :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I keep meaning to do this. It's not the phyllo that's stopping me. There's just so many things I want to try, sometimes I get to none.
Claudia Roden's recipes seem consistently wonderful.