Pastelicos are my ultimate comfort food. People talk about mashed potatoes, creamy this or that, sweet stuff like cinnamon rolls, short ribs, or big vats of ice cream with hot fudge. While I love all of those things too, my go to food when sick, tired, cold or in need of any kind of a culinary hug are pastelicos. Many years ago when I had the misfortune to experience dialysis and the crazy diet that goes with it, pastelicos were one of the few foods that didn’t contain ingredients on the prohibited list. My mom, Noni made fantastic pastelicos and we had them in our home for every holiday except Passover.
Friday night Michael and I were invited to a Shabbat dinner at some friend’s home. I volunteered to bring Challah and an appetizer. I wanted to step up the pastelicos a bit and try something a bit different. I settled on using ground lamb. I am sure in the ‘old country’ our Nona’s used ground lamb a lot. After Sephardim moved to the United States in the 1909 migration I don’t think that kosher ground lamb or any kind of lamb was widely available in small communities like Seattle. In Seattle you had to put your name on a waiting list . Lamb chops or any kind of lamb were precious indeed.
This recipe makes quite a lot, enough to freeze for entertaining or serving as a regular Friday night appetizer. You can cut the recipe in half or thirds, but my feeling is, if I have the time and freezer space go for it.
Yield 120 to 130 pieces
Filling: (can be made one day ahead)
3 tablespoons safflower oil
3 large brown onions, chopped fine
salt and fresh ground pepper
3 pounds ground lamb
1/2 cup long grain rice
1 and 1/ 2 cups water
1 and 1/ 2 cups chopped parsley
1 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup tamarind paste or sauce
2/ 3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Baharat (Turkish spice blend)
Dough: (for this amount of filling make three batches of dough)
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 cup ice water
3/ 4 cup safflower oil
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sesame seeds
For each batch of dough you will need two half sheet rimmed baking sheets and either two Silpats or two pieces of parchment paper to make clean up easier.
Heat a 4 inch deep 12 inch diameter pan with a lid on medium high heat for a few moments. Add oil and then, add chopped onions. Sauté onions until beginning to caramelize, season well with sea salt and cracked pepper. Push onions to one side using a wood spoon and turn up heat to high. Add ground lamb to hot sauté pan, brown lamb and while stirring, break up lamb into small bits. If there is a lot of fat from the lamb drain off the excess. Next, add rice, stir to combine, add water and cover with lid. Reduce heat to low and simmer until water is all absorbed and rice is cooked, about 15 minutes.
Uncover filling and begin adding other ingredients, parsley, mint, tamarind, pine nuts, cinnamon, cumin and Baharat. Stir all to combine, taste, and adjust seasoning. Add more sea salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin or Baharat. Set aside filling to cool.
Make the dough while the filling cools or refrigerate filling overnight and make dough the next day.
Heat oven to 400° F. Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. In a glass measuring pitcher combine ice water and oil. Use a small whisk and beat oil and water. Add oil and water to flour mixture. Using your clean hands mix dough until ingredients are all combined. Break dough into 42 to 44 walnut sized pieces. Roll each piece until it is a smooth round ball. Roll each walnut size ball into a 3 inch diameter circle using a rolling pin. Be careful not to roll over edges so circles are the same thickness throughout.
Portion filling in three. Divide one third of filling evenly among circles. Close each circle by forming a triangle and closing with a repulgo edge or just flat. Place 21 to 22 pastelicos on each baking sheet. Paint pastelicos with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Use a silicone pastry brush to paint on egg. Bake pastelicos 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Serve plain, with hummus or even guacamole.