filo cigarettes with feta and mint

a few weeks back, my team from work came over for dinner. i wanted to spoil and treat them to something a bit outside of the common ‘pasta e vino’. since i love the process of hosting dinners at my house – from the planning to the grocery shopping to the actual cooking – i usually tend to overdo it just a tiny bit… like: what started with the idea of a few arab inspired dishes ended with a lavish variety of about 10 to 12 different mezze.

now arab is certainly not the type of kitchen that’s super quick to whip up. but cooking gives me back so much. it’s relaxation, leaving the hassle of the day behind. when nothing else goes right, i cook. it gives me hope. and if people get to enjoy the output and love what they are being served – well even better. cooking can actually be so rewarding.

now filo cigarettes. i love recipes that involve a little… let’s say: sleight of hand. filo (or phyllo, or fillo) dough isn’t really easy to work with. like strudel dough, it dries up really quickly and it breaks easily. but once you messed up the first batch, the next round is pretty easy, i promise (laugh). and it can actually be quite meditative, you’ll find.

so here’s how those meditative filo dough cigarettes are done. you could also fill them with fresh herbs, or with some minced lamb, or couscous. the options are limitless. but i find the most aromatic and interesting version includes a bit of feta.

filo cigarettes with feta and mint

1 pack filo dough (or strudel dough)
1 cup feta cheese or goat cheese
2 eggs
2 tbsp. dried mint
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. medium hot paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1 drop harissa
fleur de sel (if needed)

50 g butter, for brushing

preheat the oven to 220 degrees. combine the cheese, eggs, spices, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor and blend until smooth. salt if necessary (the feta cheese is usually pretty salty already). melt the butter in a small saucepan. so much for the prepping.

now, spread the filo dough leaves out on a work surface. cut all the leaves in equal sized rectangles (about 10cm width and 15cm long). cover the dough you don’t use right now with a damp tea towel.

now for the rolling: it’s basically the same process as with spring rolls, except much simpler (because you don’t need the folding in on either side). but one step after another… start by taking one dough rectangle (i only take 1 leaf, but you can double it if you prefer a thicker dough wrap). place one spoonful of the cheese mix in the middle of the bottom of the rectangle (long side up). then spread the mix evenly in a thin line, leaving out 1cm on each side (so the mix won’t peter out at the sides). now brush a bit of melted butter on to the three other sides of the rectangle (the butter acts as a ‘glue’). start rolling the cigarette from the bottom (where the mix is spread) upwards. when rolled up completely, make sure everything sticks together. place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. proceed, until all of the cheese mix is used up.

now brush every finished cigarette with liquid butter (be generous, the cigarettes dry out very quickly in the oven). place in the oven, and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. serve immediately (thought they’re also quite good when cold).

storage or making ahead: if you don’t want to serve them immediately or would like to make the cigarettes ahead, you can simply put them in the freezer, rolled up and unbaked. just don’t brush with butter yet. when needed, take out of the freezer, brush with melted butter, and bake immediately. just make sure you bake them long enough so the cigarettes aren’t still frozen inside.

more mezze dishes to go with the filo cigarettes are to come. as always, thank you for reading and lots of love.

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