March 23-24, 2018
I've tentatively joined a new cooking club! This one aims to select a different cookbook for each potluck gathering. Yet the first feature was Ottolenghi & Tamimi's Jerusalem. It's not a stretch from my other club's driving theme, and I borrowed the book from a generous Ottolenghi clubmate.
I also stuck to my well-worn dessert-making groove. Jerusalem has a couple of fabulous-looking orange cakes that would likely travel well, but I ultimately preferred to try my hand at the sweet filo cigars. They're stuffed with sweetened ground pistachios and almonds, fried, and then dipped in honey.
I got an excellent head start the night before, preparing the nut filling as my dinner baked and wrapping it in filo in front of Netflix. Things went awry and I really started swearing at fry-time later that evening: the cigars' stubborn, asymmetric centre of mass meant that they wouldn't turn over in the oil; one or two even burst their filling. The next morning, I felt a bit calmer and the job at hand felt more feasible. All except the first three cigars were nicely browned, not too greasy, and their weirder edges softened in their honey dunking.
With an egg and lots of honey involved, this recipe is far from vegan. I reckon conversion wouldn't be too difficult, though - I'd try skipping the egg entirely, perhaps adding a dot of margarine or olive oil to the filling and sealing the cigars with water. Honey could be replaced with diluted agave nectar, or a heavy sugar syrup with a drop of orange blossom water.
These cigars were the short, sweet end that our sprawling lunch needed. They're more filo than filling yet the ground nuts, brightened with lemon zest, shine through. I used orange blossom honey, and we could also discern its floral scent. The overall effect is soft, layered and very, very sugary.
Delightful as they were, this is probably just a one-off recipe for me. I live so close to Sydney Rd, where similar Lebanese pastries are cheap, abundant, and fried by someone else. Instead I'll save my filo folding for bougatsa me krema.
Sweet filo cigars
(very slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem,
- 80g flaked almonds
- 80g pistachios
- 80g caster sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 180g filo pastry
- 180g honey