A day to play! (I love that the Central Market only opens 4 days a week). Recently I ordered this Tunisian brick/brik pastry for the shop as customers were asking for it. I have never used it so I thought I would have a play around on this sunny Wednesday. The pastry sheets are made of wheat flour and water and are made by pushing a ball of dough onto a hot plate then quickly removing the dough leaving a thin sheet of ‘residue’ on the hot plate. This paper-thin pastry sheet is literally cooked the minute it hits the hot plate.
Feuilles de brick means ‘leaves for bricks’ and bricks are the fried, filled pastries found in Tunisia, Morocco and the Middle Eastern countries in some form or another.
The first brick I am going to try is a minced lamb filling spiced with Baharat the Lebanese 7 spice blend (paprika, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ok 8 spice blend). I have fried a finely chopped shallot and a clove of garlic and added 200g lamb mince and 1 teaspoon Baharat, fried the lamb until cooked in olive oil, about 2 minutes, then cooled for about 5 minutes. For the first one I have topped the lamb mixture with some chopped ripe tomato, chopped raisin and chopped coriander and parsley.
Fold the brick up like a spring roll, closest edge to you, fold up, then fold up sides, then roll up to top.
Have a fry pan at the ready with a shallow covering of grape seed oil on a medium heat. Fry until golden brown, turn and fry the other side. Both sides took under a minute.
Oh my god it is so good!
The brick pastry is indescribably good, but I will try. So light, so crisp, so melt in the mouth. So good. And the tomatoes, raisins and herbs complement the spiced lamb so well.
What I learned from the first go: Roll quickly, don’t mess around (taking photos) as the pastry will go soft from the meat juices and tear. The pastry edges seal themselves when the brick goes in the hot oil so no need to worry about them falling apart, just worry about getting them in the pan and having the oil hot enough. The frying took only seconds on each side. Keep the packet of pastry covered with a damp cloth to stop them drying out from the air.
Next I am going to try the suggestion on the back of the packet of pastry which is minced meat, cheese and an egg (using the same minced lamb) and fold it in the way they do in Tunisia when you are using a raw egg. They say the test of a good Tunisian son-in-law by the new parents-in-law is to see if he can eat his brick without any egg dribbling down his chin.
Have the oil in your frypan medium hot. Put a sheet of pastry on a plate. Lay the lamb in a circle in the middle of the pastry but leave room in the very centre for an egg. Sprinkle some grated mozzarella on the lamb and crack an egg into the centre. The pastry is a circle, so fold in four times to make a square. Fold the whole thing in half on the diagonal to make a triangle and slide it quickly into the fry pan before you lose the lot. Once in the fry pan things will start to look up. Cook until golden on both sides. I cooked this one for longer than the first but remember the egg should remain runny.
Ok, so I don’t have any ambition to be a Tunisian son-in-law and I ate my brick with a fork instead of my hands. This one is delicious, who does not like melted cheesy lamb and egg in crisp, light as air pastry? But I want some blood to still get through my arteries and this will surely slow things down a bit.
I consulted Paula Wolfert on this next brick because I want to do little versions of bastilla/ bisteeya using duck instead of pigeon. Firstly I have browned some almonds and blitzed them in the food processor with some sugar and cinnamon, about 150g almonds, 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/1/2 tsp castor sugar. I have dug out a leg of confit of duck from its home nestled in duck fat. I have some duck stock ‘I prepared earlier’. I have chopped an onion and I have some ground ginger, black pepper, more cinnamon and a lovely gram of saffron standing by.
What I am going to do is sweat the onion slowly in butter with a dash of grape seed oil until very soft, then add the spices and 1 cup of stock and reduce this down to about 1/4 cup. While stirring I am going to add a teaspoon of lemon juice then a beaten egg. We will see if that works. Meanwhile the duck is skin side down, heat on low, in the same fry pan that has done all the work today, using the same oil that has cooked the bricks and fried the almonds.
Success. The oniony stock became quite caramelised and the spices are turning my kitchen into Marrakech. Paula says to cook the egg mixture until they become curdy, stiff and dry, so I stirred until I gained a firm mixture that will not wet the pastry too much before cooking. It is not attractive so I wont show you. I will show you the duck though.
To assemble, shred the confit and place on the lower part of a sheet of pastry, top with the egg mixture and sprinkle generously with the almond mixture. Roll and fry.
Just needed a dusting more of the almond and sugar mix or icing sugar and cinnamon like the original bisteeya to make perfect.