Ouzi (Spiced Rice & Meat Pastry Pockets)
This gorgeous meal is of Mediterranean origins and is prepared hundreds of ways across the Arabian Peninsula. It is basically small crispy, flaky baked parcels made out of thinly rolled out puff pastry or a few layers of phyllo which when burst open contain a delightfully spicy rice cooked with meat, assorted veggies and slivered nuts...served with a minty cool yoghurt and some tangy salad.
Truly an incredible food experience! I just love how awesome Arabic meals are! :D
First, you will need to cook the rice filling, it needs to be cooked and fully cooled before forming the pockets so plan ahead and cook the rice early. I use a basic simple mince and veggie pilau recipe.
Take a pan and put it on your stove. Remember that the rice will double after cooking, plus the veggies and potatoes that will go in there, you will need to have enough space in the pan. Turn on the heat and once the pan is hot, add the oil and butter.
Then add the whole spices you had placed on the saucer. Cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, cloves.
Once they splutter in the oil, add your chopped onions. Fry them until they are translucent, stirring with a wooden spoon. Then add the mince and followed by the turmeric and cumin/coriander powder, garlic, ginger, a pinch of salt and the black pepper powder. Cook until the mince is brown and excess water has dried off. Add the potatoes and stir fry for a minute, then add the carrots, peas and sweet corn, followed by a bit of chopped coriander.
The aroma should by now be brilliant. Stir together for a few minutes, then add the stock/water and some salt. Let the stock simmer and taste for the salt. You should be able to feel the saltiness. If it feels just right, it means you have too little. Remember that the rice will need some salt too, so let the salt be enough that you can taste it to be a bit more than you would want. Not too much of course!
Once the water starts boiling, drain your rice (which should have been pre-soaked for about half an hour) and add this rice to the stock. Sprinkle a bit of coriander on this, and stir a little. Let this cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring now and then, then reduce the heat to medium and keep cooking it whilst covered until the water diminishes, giving it a stir every now and then to make sure all the rice is cooked evenly and perfectly.
Once you find there is very little water left in the rice, reduce the heat to the lowest point possible. Seal your pan by using a tight lid or wetting a kitchen towel and placing it over the pan then placing a lid on top of it.
Leave the rice to continue steaming on very low heat for a good 10 minutes. Switch off, open the pan and fluff the rice a little. Allow it to cool completely in preparation for the next step.
You will need:
Puff pastry squares or filo pastry sheets.
If you're using puff pastry, roll it out as thin as you can get it without tearing. If using filo, you will need 2-3 sheets for every pocket, placing one on top of the other and brushing melted butter between the layers.
Take a medium sized bowl. Place the rolled out pastry over the bowl (make sure the pastry is larger than the bowl) and push the center into the bowl to form the 'pocket' dome-shape, leaving some inches of pastry hanging all around the outside of the bowl to be used for closing the pocket. Add your rice filling in the bowl, then close up the pocket by folding over the extra pastry and sealing with some egg white. Turn the bowl over and gently lift it away, the pocket will fall out easily.
Continue forming the rest of the pockets until all are done.
Place the pockets/ouzi on a greased baking tray. Pre-heat the oven at 180 C. Brush the ouzi with some egg yolk for a good color. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is perfectly golden and crispy.
Remove and serve nice and hot with some salad and yoghurt.