Moroccan Night

When having company over last weekend, I decided to go with a Moroccan theme for dinner. I love all the warm spices that flavour everything, and I love how spicy and sweet come together so often – like cinnamon and honey flavouring lamb, it is such a delicious and unexpected taste-meld. My menu consisted of Phyllo Triangles Stuffed with Fresh Cheese and Lamb Tagine with Honey, Raisins and Almonds.

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I decided to change this phyllo recipe up a little bit, since I wanted something more savoury than sweet. Also, I made it a little healthier by using olive oil instead of butter to brush the sheets, and baking instead of deep frying. The results were amazing.

Phyllo Triangles Stuffed with Fresh Cheese

1/2 lb/225 g ricotta, fresh semisoft farmer’s cheese, or Mexican queso fresco

1 large egg

Heaped 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 Tbsp zaatar spice

4 sheets phyllo dough or warqa, plus more in case of breakage

Olive oil for brushing

1 egg yolk, whisked

1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

In a medium mixing bowl, blend the cheese, egg, zaatar and cilantro with a fork.

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On a clean, flat work surface, unroll the phyllo sheets. Cut into strips about 3 in/7.5 cm wide and at least 9 in/23 cm long. Arrange a couple of the strips facing away from you; cover the remaining strips with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Lightly brush the strips with olive oil.

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Place 1 Tbsp of the cheese filling on the end of each strip closest to you. Fold over to form a triangle, then fold again to form another triangle, and so on to the end. Brush the end of the triangle with egg yolk and fold the loose end over the brushed yolk.

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Place the triangles on a greased baking sheet without letting them touch. Repeat with the remaining phyllo strips and cheese filling. Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds and more zaatar for taste.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until the edges get nicely crispy and brown. Serve immediately.

I love moroccan foods, especially meals made in the traditional tagine. I don’t own a tagine (my mom used to – apparently that was a trendy thing in the 70s?), so I’m always trying to find recipes that don’t specifically use a tagine to make the same kind of stew. This is one I found on epicurious.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Raisins, Almonds, and Honey

2 teaspoons ras-el-hanout (I didn’t have any of this spice blend, so I made it up a little with cinnamon and nutmeg)

2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3 cups water

3 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large onion, coarsely grated (1 cup)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 1/4 cups raisins

1 1/4 cups whole blanched almonds

1/2 cup honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Accompaniment: couscous

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Whisk together ras-el-hanout, salt, pepper, ginger, saffron, and 1 cup water in a 5-quart heavy pot.

It's like a cauldron full of spices

It’s like a cauldron full of spices

Stir in lamb, remaining 2 cups water, onion, garlic, cinnamon sticks, and butter and simmer, covered, until lamb is just tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

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Stir in raisins, almonds, honey, and ground cinnamon and simmer, covered, until meat is very tender, about 30 minutes more.
Uncover pot and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until stew is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes more.

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Word of the day:

Obeisance: a movement of the body expressing deep respect or deferential courtesy, as before a superior; a bow, curtsy or other similar gesture; deference or homage: The nobles gave obeisance to the new king

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