One of our good friend N had her 40th birthday last Friday. Her husband threw a surprise birthday party at her residence and along with 25 other friends, we were invited too. It was a pot luck and he suggested to bring a savory dish. Since they come from Israel, I decided to go with a Jewish snack. Having tasted a lot of Mediterranean cuisine in the bay area, I am always partial towards falafel but I doubted whether it will stay crispy for that long, as I have to cook it earlier at home and then take it to her place. So we rules out falafel. S suggested my spicy hummus and pick up pita pockets/ fresh bread from an Israeli store on the way. I felt that it was way too a simple dish to take. But I told him that I will come up with a party appetizer first and then take hummus as well.
Crispy! finger licking good! attractive on the platter! bite size! - These were the criteria I had in mind. Visual image of a plate of burekas came before my eyes. Yes, you heard me right. It is burkeas for N's birthday. But I didn't want to serve it the usual way, I went for a fusion look. When I saw the picture of phyllo cups with fruits in the Athen's phyllo packet. I decided to go with the idea of serving meat burekas in an edible cup, that presentation was convincing to me. I have also seen , so got an idea how it will look.
I did a test run on Thursday and the results were promising as S loved it. He generously gave me 9.5 on 10. Whenever a new dish is made at home, S will evaluate it with a score. He is always stingy with his markings but this time he gave me 9.5, so I know the idea of edible cups clicked.
On Friday, we planned to meet at 6.30 pm at her residence and her husband has sent N and H, her third daughter to nail styling parlor. When we heard her park her car, all of us who were setting the table with the scrumptious food went hiding quietly behind the doors and walls. As she walked up the stairs from the garage, we screamed "Surprise" and the remaining crowd continued saying "Yim huledet sameah" meaning Happy Birthday in Hebrew, S and I tried to catch that phrase to the maximum possible ability :-)
She was thrilled and surprised to bits. Her eyes went moist as she thanked us for the effort and time. We started the evening with a glass of red wine and she raised a toast for her husband and three kids. She narrated how her daughter was hurrying her to get back home and she faked hungry prangs in the parlor. We laughed and everyone said "Mazel Tov" meaning Congratulations in Hebrew.
My little one has never encountered this many new faces at a single time. I was bit worried that he might get cranky and cry but I was totally wrong, he went to everyone, smiled, touched them and he seemed to have a good time that day. When we left him on the floor, he crawled fast to the huge fish tank and awed at the colorful fishes. He jumped raising his hands and hitting the glass tank, he kept babbling seeing the teeny-tiny fishes running around in excitement.
There was an awesome array of home from different homes : Hummus, bread, pita chips,three types of lasagne, Israeli salad, Malawach, Rice pilaf with pine nuts, Baba ganoush, Strawberry salad, Potato stuffed flaky bread and beautiful birthday cake. As I sat down to eat, my son was curious to explore my plate. I ended up sharing my plate with him. For the first time, I gave him outside food. He tasted the pilaf, potatoes, bread and hummus, he loved it and he came back for more. Just to keep him happy, I fed really tiny pieces. After getting the taste of those delicious food, he refused to have his formula milk that night. After the dessert, her husband made Café Afuch with his cappuccino maker. We made new friends and it was a beautiful evening. Once again a very happy birthday N.
Coming to the dish, I made a meat stuffing with boneless chicken breasts. The recipe is very similar to my ground turkey salad. I added fried cashews for an extra crunch and sprinkled garden fresh cilantro for an extra zing. The phyllo cups were crispy and flaky and they ground curry and the phyllo cups completed with each other so well. This is a perfect starter dish to serve any party. I can assure that it will be a super hit and you will have tons of people asking you for tips.
For the chicken kheema
1-2 lb bone less chicken breats (pulsed to a paste in a food processor- without water) or use ground chicken
1-2 teaspoon olive oil
1 small red onion - minced
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2-1 teaspoon red chili powder
2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 cup water
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup fried cashews
Salt to taste
For the paste:
1/2 inch ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 large onion - chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilnatro - chopped
2 red chilly
For the chicken kheema:
Heat oil in a large cooking pan. Once they are hot, add the ingredients in the paste sectionSaute for 2 minutes. Then add the onions and sprinkle little salt to let it sweat. Cook for 10 minutes on medium flame and let it brown a bit.
Add the ground chicken and break them down to smaller bits. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the turmeric, chili and coriander powder and mix well. Sprinkle the water and cook covered for 30 minutes, stirring every now and then. It should be a dry curry, keep stirring removing the scraped stuck in the base of the cooking pan. Add the thawed peas and cook covered for 5 minutes. Add the cilantro and mix well. Switch off the flame and let it cool. Sprinkle the fried cashews and mix well.
For the assembly:
Pre heat over to 350 degrees.
Thaw the phyllo sheets overnight in the refrigerator. Set your working surface. I used my kitchen island. Have melted butter, pastry brush and a damp cloth to cover them while working.
Once thawed, remove and keep them next to you. Carefully remove one sheet, cut them into 7x7cm square inch, more or less depending on the size of your muffin cup. The point is to place the phyllo sheet inside the muffin cup and then top them with your filling.I placed two layers of phyllo sheets.
Spray muffin pans with non-stick spray. Now place the phyllo sheet inside them, work with your finger tips, press them lightly along the bottom edges to get the cup shape.Butter them with a pastry brush,place the next piece of sheet and layer them with butter again. Add the filling.
Bake for about 7-8 minutes, adjust according to your oven setting.
Serve hot with few drops of ketchup and sprinkle chopped cilantro on top.
1.Phyllo sheets are fragile, handle them with utmost patience and care.
2. While baking, keep an eye to avoid burning them.