My Aunty Dianna from Israel is visiting and we had her over for lunch today. She's a tough old bird and I wanted to impress with some traditional Sephardi foods. So the main course was my mainstay of albondigas and rice. You can't go wrong with the good old meatball in sauce. No worries there, it's a tried and true recipe that is one of the faves in this house. But that was not enough to impress. So I had to come up with something else . . . well we had a few eggplants in our veggie box plus still quite a few tomatoes left over so I thought I might try something with them. I decided to give pastelikos a go. These are little pies that can be made with a variety of stuffings, one of which is eggplant (or berenjena as they like to say in Ladino). I have never made them before. I have not had a granny or an old aunty show me how. I was flying without a net on this one because without the wisdom of ages, the old cookbook from the shul in Salisbury/Harare does not always have enough info to guarantee success, especially when there is pastry involved. But I would not be deterred from my mission to impress so on I soldiered.
Yesterday afternoon I prepared the filling - gomo de handrajo - which is basically onion, eggplant, and tomato cooked for about an hour and a half into a soft pulp and then with some fresh parsley added.
The complicated part of the operation is making the pastry and the little cups to hold all that tastiness. The recipe calls for boiling oil, water, and salt together and then mixing it all together with flour and kneading into a "firm dough." All well and good if you know what it's supposed to feel like, not so useful if you don't. So mine ended up being a bit soft and my cups, when shaped from a ball with the thumb were not sitting up. J suggested using a muffin tin and all was saved by that bit of brilliance. So pastry was put in muffin cups, filling was added, and little lids were made and dipped in sesame seeds.
Putting on the lids is a bit of a mission as well but I figured out some system that actually got the lid and cup pastry to seal, so good news there. The tops are supposed to have a delicate frill design created by some subtle knife work but I was under a tight time constraint and this was not a road I was willing to go down this day. Here they are on their way to being ready for the oven.
Into a 400F oven for 40 minutes until golden brown and presto!!
Things of beauty, I tell ya!!! Aunty Dianna had two with minimal commentary on how they could have been better (her main issue was that there was no cheese inside). As she doesn't really eat a lot, the fact she consumed two pastelikos and a full plate of albondigas and rice made me feel pretty good about the whole affair. And now, I have conquered the fear of pasteliko preparation. I will make them again (probably not soon, but I know I can now!).