Saturday, March 13, 2010


It comes from a lot of places. The grocery aisles provide well, as do magazines, cookbooks, and so many great food blogs. My cupboards often inspire a dish as I dig to see what my options are. They can be a most excellent black hole, swallowing ingredients until I look deep inside, almost like shopping in my own kitchen.
I take inspiration from dishes Mom made us as kids, and meals we eat in restaurants or friends' homes.

Sometimes a combination of factors inspire dinner, and that's what happened here.
On a rainy weekday I didn't feel like eating much dinner. I have a few stand-by meals for those days: brothy leek soup with some pastina, oatmeal, a salad, some yogurt and cereal with some fruit. This only works for me; my partner needs something more substantial. He's not too picky but when there is no frozen pizza to be had and pasta won't satisfy, I turn to the cupboards and freezer for some brilliant idea that will hopefully work out. Some phyllo dough from the fridge, ground beef from the freezer, vegetables and some spices made dinner go from simple to extraordinary, with leftovers for another night!
These meat pies wrapped in phyllo were inspired by my Grandma's spanakopita and the notion of sheperd's pie. The dough is a departure from the usual; I had some on hand it was fun to work with and exciting to the diner at mealtime. I could have used pizza dough to make a calzone, but the phyllo made it unique and matched well with the spicy flavors.
Cinnamon and cumin is a haunting combination on the palate, with the ground beef or any other filling. For a vegetarian option, sprinkle the two on some chickpeas and roast for a few minutes, or steam with some broth. You'll be in love.

Spicy Meat Hand Pies
makes 3 triangle hand pies

1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, diced
6 ounces lean ground beef
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
juice from half a lime
salt to taste
1 egg
4 Tbs melted butter
10 sheets (about 4 ounces) phyllo dough

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat a saucier pan over medium and add the olive oil, onion, and carrots and saute until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and brown until fully cooked (no pink spots). Drain off as much fat as you can, then add the cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin, lime juice, and salt to taste. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and ready a pastry brush. Take out your 10 sheets of phyllo dough and place them on a damp towel. Gently cut the sheets in half longways and cover with a second damp towel. Lightly flour your work surface.

Remove one half sheet of phyllo and place on the work surface. Recover the rest of the dough with the damp towel (every time so it doesn't dry out). Brush the half sheet with melted butter and top with a second sheet of phyllo. Brush again with butter, repeat one more time. After the third sheet is buttered, add one third of the meat filling to a corner of the dough. Fold the corner over, tucking the filling in carefully. Fold in thirds until the triangle hand pie is formed.

The best verbal description escapes me, so I hope a visual picks up where I fail.

Place the hand pie on the parchment. Repeat with the process with three more sheets of phyllo, buttering and adding the filling, folding and placing on the parchment.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the phyllo is light brown and crispy.


As you know, 3+3+3= 9, not 10. So you're going to have an extra half sheet of phyllo left. You could toss it but that would be terrible! Do what I did: brush it with a little butta, and sprinkled with lots and lots of cinnamon sugar before cutting it into three pieces and rolling and crinkling each piece into a cinnamon 'straw'. Place on the baking sheet with your hand pies, and remove after 12-15 minutes.



Erica said...

Nice! Dinner & dessert all in 1. These look so flaky and just delicious! A great meal for sure

Stella said...

Yum, I love beef spiced with cumin and cinnamon-sounds fragrant!