December is coming up and there’s going to be a lot of holiday entertaining, regardless of your faith or beliefs. Here, we do things Greek style and I recently shared these cigars made filled with pastourma and Kasseri cheese.
Pastourma is a cured beef product with its origins in Asia Minor, Caesaria to be specific. Pastourma is made in Turkey, Greece, Balkans, Egypt and the Levant. I even make my own but the best that I have had has been made by Armenians in Greece and in Constantinople.Pastourma has a distinct aroma, coming from the “tsimeni”, a wet rub encasing the meat made of ground fenugreek, garlic, paprika, allspice and cumin. You can find pastourma at Middle eastern, Greek and Turkish specialty stores.
The other ingredient in this delicious appetizer is Kasseri, a semi-firm yellow cheese that’s mild and great with toast, bread, cheese plate or, as a filling. It’s great that many of these ingredients are much more widely available with many towns and cities being multicultural and people’s tastes have expanded to embrace more ethnic flavours.
These cigars are best fried, with the time in oil being very brief (just a few minutes). Most of you have access to phyllo pastry but since it is very thin, I recommend using two sheets so that you get a crisp out later.
Myself, I like using thicker phyllo grade for this but that’s only available in Greece…until now! I found a thick phyllo pastry at Arz Bakery here in Toronto. They are in the frozen section and they come in packages of about 25 and they are about 5 X 5 inch sheets.
Phyllo Cigars With Pastourma and Cheese
(makes approx. 20 pieces, cut in half serves 40)
1 package of Lila’s Thick Phyllo Sheets (20-25 sheets) pastry (5 X 5in.), thawed in the fridge
15 slices of pastourma
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 cups grated Kasseri cheese
bowl with water
oil for frying
- Organize your assembly line for the phyllo cigars: tear your pastourma into three and place in a bowl, another bowl with your grated cheese and another with tomatoes.
- Take your phyllo pastry out of the fridge and allow it 15 minutes to come to room temperature before using. Take your phyllo out of the package and place it on your work surface so that it lays vertically in front of you.
- Take a sheet of phyllo and place strip of pastourma near the bottom of the phyllo sheet (leave 1 centimeter space from bottom and sides). Now add some diced tomato then sprinkle cheese over.
- Fold the bottom flap over the filling then fold the sides over and roll up until there is 1 inch of phyllo left. Now wet your finger with water wet the top end of the phyllo. Place on a baking tray. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets.
- Add about 1 inch of oil in a large deep skillet and bring up to about 350F. Shallow fry your phyllo cigars (turn with tongs when golden) and reserve on a paper lined baking sheet.
- Serve after 5 minutes (the filling will still be warm) or reserve in a warm oven and serve on a platter. Cut in half on a bias, serve with a bowl of strained Greek yogurt for dipping.
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