I was invited to a lunch last week, and my contribution was to be the “amuse bouche”, a mouthful of something tasty to whet the appetite. I had been reading one of Claudia Rodens books on middle eastern cooking the night before, and this inspired me to create a dish using the fruit, nut and spice combinations of that area. Also my dish had to be something quick and easy to prepare as the lunch invitation coincided with my day for opening my farm shop – click on the La Micaela Farm Shop at the top of the page for more details.
In the freezer I generally have packs of a local product – Obleas – which are little rounds of pastry a bit thicker than filo pastry. The traditional Spanish filling is a small amount of a thick stew made from fried peppers, garlic, tuna and tomatoes. The rounds are then folded in half to make a semi circle and sealed firmly on the joining edges, then the Empanaditas are deep fried until crisp.
For lightness I prefer to brush the pastry circles with oil or butter, put the filling in the centre, fold the pastry upwards and pinch the edges together lightly, and then bake the little parcels. My favourite filling up to doing this one was of crumbly goats cheese and blanched spinach or chard bound together with egg.
MINI CHICKEN PSTILLAS
Filo pastry cut into 10cm squares or Obleas
100 gms cooked or raw lean chicken
small jar aubergine and red pepper salad – see Preserved Salads post for the recipe
50 gms toasted hazelnuts
50 gms golden raisins
a pinch or two of Ras el Hanout spices, or a mix of cumin, coriander, cinnamon and chilli all ground finely
Salt and pepper
olive oil for brushing the pastry
If you have not got cooked chicken and are starting with raw, cut it into small cubes and fry quickly in a small amount of olive oil. If using ready cooked chicken chop it into small cubes about half a centimetre square.
With a pestle and mortar crush the hazelnuts to break them up but not too small.
Put the chicken in a bowl with the nuts, salad and raisins. Season with the spices to taste.
If you have a tin for making miniature muffins or tarts it will be easier to form the little pies.
If you are using filo pastry and it is very thin you may well need to use two layers for your pies. Brush one side of a sheet of pastry with oil, lay another sheet on top and brush this with oil. Cut into squares of roughly 10 centimetres. Turn the two layers of pastry over so that the oily side is to the bottom and gently tuck the centre into one of the indentations in the muffin tin. With a teaspoon fill the pastry cup with the chicken filling. Lift the pastry around the pie and fold over the top of the filling to make a rough lid. Repeat this for each of your little pies.
If you don’t have a muffin tin, then use your hand as a rough cup, lay the pastry on your hand oily side down, put a teaspoon or so of filling in the middle and then bring the pastry up around the filling to cover it. Put the parcels on a baking tray to cook them. They may not look as neat and tidy as the ones cooked in a muffin or tart tray, and you may have the occasional burst, but they will taste just as good.
Cook in a preheated oven at 190 centigrade for 15 minutes or until golden brown and sizzling. Let cool a little before serving.