We decided to go on a little "staycation" yesterday to Morocco, home of spices, fabulous food, couscous and Casablanca. Located just across the Mediterranean Sea from Spain, geographically it is the "top hat" of North Africa and its cuisine is said to be one of the most diverse in the world.
I confess I saw a picture of this pie and thought it would be a darn cool thing to attempt. Made with phyllo (filo) pastry filled with a beef/onion concoction spiced with ginger, cinnamon and lots of fresh herbs,the filling is placed along the one edge of the phyllo sheet, then rolled tightly and placed in a springform pan. In my case I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment, leaving approximately an inch and a half of overhang which makes it much easier to slide off the base for serving.
The pie's pretty darn fun to put together and tasty as well, although I think the filling could have used a little more work. In my opinion, it needed almonds for crunch, currents for sweetness, mint and fresh rather than powdered ginger; however, it was yummy and certainly different- crispy outside with just the right amount of filling inside. If it seems rather weird to top a savory pie with sugar and cinnamon, think again because this made it particularly tasty. It's such an innovative way to make a pie, I can't wait to try it again as a full size spanikopita, big yummy spicy samosa or even good old apple or pear.
We had our Serpent Pie along side an Eggplant and Chickpea stew. Loaded with garlic, onion, parsley, cilantro, smoked paprika and cumin, it was a great excuse to use some of the preserved lemons I put up this past spring from our Meyer lemon tree. Pickled whole in salt and lemon juice, once rinsed of excess salt I used only the rind in the stew, resulting in a salty/sweet intensely lemony flavor. Quite delicious!
Moroccan Serpent Pie with Eggplant Chickpea Stew
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
Handful each of fresh cilantro, parsley and mint*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger (or 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced*)
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped*
1/4 cup currents*
8 ounces thawed phyllo dough
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
Confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon
Using food processor with steel blade, place onion, garlic, and fresh herbs in the bowl and pulse several times to chop finely. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add chopped onion, garlic, herb mixture and sauté until onion is soft (about 5 minutes). Add ground beef and cook, stirring constantly to crumble meat until it is no longer pink. Add ginger, cinnamon, paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in beaten eggs, mixing well until they begin to set. Add almonds and currents. Set aside to cool.
To assemble – heat oven to 400. Place a sheet of parchment on the bottom of a spring form pan leaving an overhang of about 2 inches, then assemble ring over top of parchment. Spray pan well with cooking spray. Unfold phyllo dough and working quickly, stack 2 sheets together, one on top of the other. Place spoonfuls of filling along bottom edge of the long side of the two stacked sheets, then roll the pastry tightly into a cylinder. Place in spring form pan, starting on the outside and working inward. Repeat process until base is completely covered.
Brush top well with melted butter. Place on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips, then bake in 400 oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until top is rich golden brown. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm. Note: *recommended addition
Eggplant and Chickpea Stew
1 large eggplant
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1 preserved lemon rind, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of half a lemon
Coarse ground pepper to taste
Heat large Dutch oven over medium heat. Prick whole eggplant with fork and a few places, then place eggplant in the Dutch oven, cover and cook over medium low heat for 40 minutes. Turn eggplant once. Eggplant will be charred on the outside and very soft inside. Remove eggplant from pot and place in a colander. Make a large slit down the length of the eggplant, turn it over so the slit is on the bottom and place the colander in the sink to drain for 10 minutes. Scrape flesh into a bowl and discard skin. Mash flesh well.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until onion is soft. Add garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, preserved lemon, parsley, cilantro, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 10 minutes until liquid has evaporated. Stir in chickpeas and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and coarse ground pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature. Download Moroccan Serpent Pie