What’s a world-famous French cooking school like Cordon Bleu doing teaching recipes using ingredients from Tunisia? I thought French cooking was supposed to be very traditionelle – dishes like Coq au Vin, Quiche Lorraine and Cassoulet. Imagine my surprise then when we were handed sheets of Brik Pastry (warka dough) from Tunisia to make a version of Lamb en Croûte (lamb wrapped in pastry dough).
It turns out that the Cordon Bleu school, although still focussing on traditional French cuisine, is introducing its students to dishes and ingredients from other parts of the world- such as ceviche, guacamole and brik pastry from Tunisia.
Brik pastry is a wafer-thin pastry, originating from the Maghreb region in North Africa. Made of wheat flour, oil, salt and water, it is similar to filo pastry, but without all the drama of it flaking apart in your hands. It also has a much lighter, crunchier texture than filo and can be shallow or deep fried without soaking up large amounts of oil.
So hooray for brik pastry!– no more laborious rolling out of traditional pastry dough to make my lamb en croûte. All that’s required for my dish is to first make a mousse stuffing, using some chicken breast mixed with minced pine nuts and pistachios. The lamb fillet and stuffing are then rolled up in several sheets of brik pastry, lightly fried on the stove top and then served with some lamb jus. When served with a side of potato wedges and cherry tomatoes Provence-style (i.e. brushed with olive oil and dusted with some dried thyme) you might be forgiven for thinking you were dining somewhere in the south of France (or would it be Tunisia)?
- 1 lamb fillet (backstrap)
For the Mousse Stuffing
- 50 g pistachios
- 50 g pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- parsley, coriander and basil (3 sprigs each)
- splash of olive oil
- 50 g chicken breast
- 1/2 egg white
- 30 ml thickened cream
For the Lamb Jus
- Lamb bones (3 – 4 small/medium pieces)
- 150 ml beef stock
- 50 ml red wine
- Potato wedges
- Cherry tomatoes
- Dried thyme and olive oil
- Pre-heat oven to 180 C (350 F).
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to pan and brown over medium high heat, about three minutes each side. Wrap in foil and place in oven for approximately 4 – 5 minutes. Lamb will be cooked to the right consistency when it is pink in the center. Let the meat cool to room temperature then place in fridge. Reduce the oven temperature to 140 C (280 F).
- Prepare the lamb jus: brown the lamb bones in oil over medium high heat (use same pan that the lamb was cooked in). Remove the bones from pan and let drain on kitchen paper. Drain the excess oil from the pan. Return the bones to the pan, add the beef stock and wine. Let simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Remove the bones from the pan and simmer for a few more minutes.
- Prepare the chicken mousse: slice the chicken breast into cubes, place in food processor with 1/2 egg white, thickened cream, drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Process until smooth and remove from the processor bowl.
- Place the pine nuts and pistachios on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 140 C for several minutes until the pine nuts turn a light brown. Remove the nuts from the oven and pulse in the food processor until the are finely minced. Roughly chop the garlic, parsley, coriander and basil sprigs and add to the processor with the nuts. Add the chicken mousse and a splash of olive oil and pulse all ingredients until smooth.
- Place two sheets of the Brik Pastry (warka dough) on your workbench and overlap them in the center. Brush entire surface of the dough (including edges) with egg white.
- Spread the stuffing on the bottom of the dough, to fit the width of the lamb- leave a small margin on the sides.
- Remove the lamb from the fridge and place on top of the stuffing.
- Spread some more stuffing on top of the lamb, then roll up the dough and lamb until it meets the half-way mark.
- Fold the sides inward then continue to roll up the dough until finished. (If any of the dough starts to break apart, you can fix it by brushing some egg white on it).
- Heat some oil in pan and brown the rolled pastry starting with the seam side facing down. Remove from pan.
- To prepare the potatoes, cut them in wedges with the skin on. Cook in boiling salted water until the potatoes start to soften (do not over cook). Place some melted butter in a baking pan or casserole dish with some dried thyme. Toss the potatoes in this mixture until thoroughly coated. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for about 10-15 minutes until the potatoes turn golden brown.
- Brush the cherry tomatoes with olive oil and drizzle with a little salt and dried thyme. Place in oven for 10 minutes until the tomatoes soften.
- Serve the sliced lamb pieces on a plate, top with some of the lamb jus, serve with some potato wedges and cherry tomatoes on the side.