Shish barak – Lebanese beef filo pies with yoghurt & mint oil

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It’s a funny time, the transition between summer and autumn – and it’s not just the weird weather. There’s change afoot. I can sense it all around me in other people and I can sense it ahead. Close friends and family are making decisions that change the course of their lives. My mum got married, my sister handed in her notice at work and has flung off travelling for a while, my step-sister has moved to New York, friends are having babies, making wedding plans, moving across the country, changing their jobs. It’s all very exciting.

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I’m kind of feeling a little left behind, because it’s just business as usual here. It doesn’t help that my enthusiasm for everything (including cooking) has considerably waned thanks to some strange virus that’s been plaguing me for a couple of weeks. A strange mix of I’m craving an adventure/I need something new/But I don’t know what mixed with I just want to lie down/I don’t feel like it/I’m so god damn tired. So I’ve not been doing so much cooking. I’ve not had many ideas, I’ve not known what I want. I haven’t been bothered to shop, cook.. even eat! It’s not a nice feeling. It worried me a bit, that I might have lost my desire to cook, like that was the change I was looking for.

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Yesterday I made these beef pies, alongside a selection of trusty salads, because we had a guest. I didn’t feel like cooking at all. I begrudgingly dragged myself to the shops and entered the kitchen with a searing headache and major lack of enthusiasm. But somewhere along the way I started to feel a little better, and actually really enjoy the process of cooking for the first time in a while. Perhaps it was that I didn’t have time pressures. I cooked at my own pace, and just completely put all thoughts aside. I concentrated on the food, the recipe steps (incidentally borrowed from Claudia Roden). I enjoyed the making, I enjoyed the meal. And I even had a couple of glasses of prosecco. I haven’t fancied drinking alcohol at all lately, which is out of character! I felt back to normal for the first time in a while, restored. It was great. So I’m not suggesting these are super amazing smiley miracle beef happy happy pies or anything, but then again who wouldn’t be glad to eat an individual crispy, buttery, sweetly-spiced beef pie smothered in garlic yoghurt and mint oil? Happy eating people :-D

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You will need:

2 white onions, chopped
75g pine nuts
400g beef mince
2 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn allspice
1/2 tspn nutmeg
1 1/2 tbspn pomegranate molasses
4-5 30x20cm sheets of filo pastry
4-5 tbspns melted butter
300g plain yoghurt
1 1/2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbspns olive oil
1 tspn dried mint
Salt, pepper
Oil, to fry

 

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Method:

1 – Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Add the onions. Cook til soft then add the pine nuts. Continue to cook until the onions and nuts are golden brown.
2 – Tip in the spices, stir, the add the mince and season well. Brown the mince and continue to cook for 15 minutes or so. Stir in the pomegranate molasses and remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely.
3 – Preheat the oven to 200
Degrees while you fill the pies. Take one sheet of filo and brush the whole top side with melted butter. Spoon 3-4 tbspns filling along the longest edge, about 2cm away from the edges thenselves.
4 – Tuck in the sides and roll up the meat into a sausage shape. Twist carefully into a coil – try to scrunch them up a little (ie push either end of the sausage together) – to avoid the filo tearing.
5 – Pop them on a foil-lined baking tray (no need to grease) and push them together to help hold the shape. You’ll probably make 4 pies but you could get 5 depending on how generous you are with your portioning- it’s hard to be exact, go with your instinct! Brush each pie with melted butter and put in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and crisp.
6 – While they bake make the yoghurt sauce. Mix together the yoghurt with the garlic and a pinch of salt. Keep at room temperature before serving. Mix together the olive oil and mint in a separate bowl. When the pies are done trickle with yoghurt and a little of the mint oil, serving the rest on the side.

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