Meat cigars

For our finger food meal at church this Sunday, I decided to make ‘meat cigars’, or Briwat Bil Kefta. These are a meat, egg and herb filling wrapped up in phyllo dough and baked. Traditionally in Morocco, Briwat (with many different types of filling) are made with a thin pastry called warka, but sheets of phyllo are much easier to come by in the U.S.  As with any individually-wrapped party food, these take a while to make, but they’re worth the effort!

First, make the filling (kefta):
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
salt and black pepper to taste
5 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 package phyllo dough (8 oz. needed)
canola oil

Over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet, saute the onion in oil until translucent. Add cinnamon, ginger, cayenne and chili powder and stir briefly to combine. Stir in ground beef and continue to stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until meat is cooked through. It will stay kind of wet (ie. the beef will not brown in the pan). Stir together eggs and fresh herbs in a separate bowl, then pour over beef in the skillet and stir continuously for about 3-4 minutes until eggs are cooked. Remove from heat and set aside for filling to cool before assembling ‘cigars’.

When the filling is cool, remove the phyllo dough from its packaging and cut into three strips (about 9″ x 4.5″). Stack these up on top of each other into one stack (this will help keep the layers underneath from drying out). Brush the top layer very lightly with canola oil, then place a heaping Tablespoon of filling near one edge – about an inch from the bottom.

Start rolling from the bottom edge, then fold in the sides. If dough tears a little at this point it is ok. Then continue rolling to the end, adding a bit of oil at the top edge to seal it well and keep it from unrolling.  continue this process and make 50-60 rolls until the filling is used up.

At this point, I refrigerated the ‘cigars’ (stored in single layers with wax paper between the layers) so that I could bake them in the morning before our finger food meal. I would actually recommend freezing them instead if you’re not baking them immediately. The phyllo got wet and they started sticking to each other and the pan after overnight refrigeration.

To bake the rolls, place them on a baking dish or baking pan in single layers and brush with canola oil or butter. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Serve hot.

Adapted from: Arabesque: A taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon – by Claudia Roden

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