Moroccan-spiced vegetable and almond pastries with a cucumber-coriander yoghurt sauce

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It is what I think of as the ‘sweet’ spices in these pastries that prompt me to call them Moroccan-spiced. Maybe these spices trigger memories in me of a trip through Morocco long ago, maybe it was something I read in a book. The only pastry I remember from that teenage holiday was eaten on the rooftop of a posh hotel and claimed to feature pigeon. Forgive me, I was young and curious. This humbler version features mostly root vegetables because they are best suited to carrying these spices. We use small oval oven dishes, 10cm long, 7 cm wide and 2 cm high, to bake one generous pastry per person. The advantage of using a dish is in being able to form sides on the pastry capable of holding themselves up, and getting a smooth finish on top with the seams underneath. However, the filing is the important thing and it will be perfectly happy if the pastry is simply wrapped around it, in any shape or size, and baked. One large pie from which you slice wedges would be the next best thing. As well as the cucumber-yoghurt sauce, I would serve some couscous and something fiery hot, like chickpeas with fresh chillies. Use a thick, rich yoghurt as the cucumber will dilute it considerably. You want a thick pouring sauce, not a thin watery mess.

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Ingredients

  • 400 g roots - carrots, turnips, parsnips, celeriac - at least two types
  • 200 g green beans
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsps whole black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp chopped dried chillies
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • 6 cloves, ground
  • 2 tsps coriander seeds, ground
  • 1 whole star anise, ground
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 100 mls single cream
  • ½ tsp salt
  • rind of 1 orange
  • 80 g whole almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 12 sheets filo pastry
  • 80 g melted butter
  • ½ medium cucumber
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 300 mls yoghurt
  • small handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

Method

CHOP THE ROOTS INTO SMALL DICE and cook them in boiling water for a few minutes until just tender. Do the same with the green beans and mix them with the cooked roots in a bowl. Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil with the mustard seeds and the chilli. Add the other spices when the onion is cooked, and fry for a minute more. Pour in the cream, add the salt and orange rind, bring it to the boil and simmer for half a minute to thicken the cream. Stir this spiced cream into the vegetables and leave it to cool before adding the almonds and the egg yolk.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (Gas Mark 4). Lay four sheets of pastry on a worktop, brush them with melted butter, lay another sheet on top of each, brush again with butter, then lay a third sheet on each. Now cut the layered pastry into strips the width of the base of the oven dishes you’re using, and long enough to line the base of the dish and fold over fully on top. Three strips per oven dish is good, four is better. Brush the dishes with butter and lay one pastry strip in the base of each, overhanging evenly at both ends. Lay the next strip over the first and angled across it, overhanging in the same way. Use the third strip, and a fourth if you’ve got it, in the same way to completely cover the base and sides of the dish. Spoon in enough of the vegetables to almost fill the dish, then fold over the overhanging strips of pastry to fully cover the top. Tuck in or cut off any excess, then brush the tops with butter.

Bake the pastries at about 350°F (Gas Mark 4) for ten minutes, check that the pastry has firmed up at the sides and has become loose from the ramekin. If it has, carefully flip each one over on to an oven tray lined with baking parchment and remove the ramekin. Return the pastries to the oven, uncovered, and bake for a further ten minutes or so, until the pastry is crisp and lightly browned.

While the pastries are cooking, or a few hours earlier if you prefer, make the cucumber sauce. Peel the cucumber and use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds. Coarsely chop the cucumber and put it in a food processor with the garlic. Blend to a coarse puree, add the yoghurt and coriander and blend again for a few seconds, then put it in a bowl and season with salt and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper.