This time of year, I like to make all sorts of different food to transport my mind to faraway places.
Stoke the fire up high, strip down and have a cold Thai beef and cucumber salad, or keep it at a normal temp and make a hardy bison meatloaf glazed with cranberry ketchup and warm German potato salad.
I really feel I have the power to take myself somewhere distant, based on the food I’m eating, and the temperature I keep the house.
One of the dishes that pops up now and again in the winter is a traditional meat pie made in the Middle East called Bisteeya.
Bisteeya, a Middle Eastern phyllo pastry pie, swaps traditional savoury pie spices for an exotic escape with turmeric and cinnamon. PHOTOS: Jeffery Mickelson
Basically, phyllo pastry is used instead of traditional shortcrust pastry, goat, fish or wild fowl instead of beef or chicken, and turmeric and cinnamon instead of the sage and thyme combos we like to throw into our pies.
Add a handful of roasted almonds to the mix and you have something very different from your average pie, yet approachable for many who may still speculate.
While doing special event catering in Ottawa, I was always trying to come up with new and interesting things for the vegetarians so they don’t get stuck eating the normal boring catering food dished up to them by rival caterers.
Bisteeya was a regular at family meals in the kitchen, so the crew and I started playing around with the idea of a vegetarian Bisteeya.
Although this is a slightly tweaked, luxurious version of what we came up with there, the flavours are almost dead on.
Cauliflower and Morel Mushroom Bisteeya
Makes one 10-inch pie.
60 ml butter
1 tbsp turmeric
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
Pinch of chili
1 small cauliflower, cleaned and chopped
A good handful of dried morel mushrooms (about a cup) soaked overnight and well drained
2¼ tbsp preserved lemon rind, diced (or sub 2 lemons worth of zest)
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped, plus a bit more for topping
1 tbsp maple syrup
Cinnamon, to taste
Sugar, to taste
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Ø Melt butter. Add turmeric, stir once, then add onions, garlic and a touch of chili. Cook until soft.
Ø Add cauliflower and mushrooms and fry for a few minutes to brown slightly. Crush any big pieces of cauliflower and cook until soft.
Ø Add remaining ingredients and season to taste.
Ø Lay out three layers of phyllo pastry, individually brushed with butter, layering one on top of another as each layer is brushed.
Ø Take the layered phyllo and lay into a 10-inch pie shell, tucking the corners of the mold with the pastry.
Ø Fill with cauliflower mix and fold the phyllo closed. Brush the top with butter, sprinkle with a little more crushed almonds, and bake a 350° F, until phyllo pastry is nice and brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Jeffery Mickelson, a professional chef, wild food fanatic and “offal” good guy, shares his passion for cooking with What’s Up Yukon