Ouzi is a dish that looks fancy, complicated and time consuming, but it isn’t. I love this because you can make guests feel really special without having to spend hours in the kitchen, so it’s really a win-win situation.
This is mainly a Syrian dish, although it is said to be originally Turkish. The word “surar” is Arabic for pouches, which is exactly what these are. Nowadays, many Levantine countries make this dish, especially for special occasions, since it is perfect for large gatherings because it is easy to dish up and portion out. You could, however, make one big pouch or make the rice and meat and top it with nuts without wrapping it all in pastry.
Although this dish is traditionally made with meat, you could easily swap it for chicken or even make the dish vegetarian by replacing the meat with vegetables. I like making a double batch of these pouches and freezing them before baking so that I can pop them in the oven any time I am having a lazy day or when I’m craving them! They taste exactly how they do on the first day you make them.
Ouzi is incredibly easy to make and you’ll know you did it right when you hear the beautiful crunch when you break into the crispy dough! To make sure you get the crispiness, allow the rice to cool before wrapping it in the pastry sheets.
Serve this dish with some cucumber yogurt or a green salad and enjoy!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 500g lamb/beef pieces
- 6 cardamom pods
- ½ tsp mastic (optional)
- 4 cloves
- Half a cinnamon stick
- 10 black peppercorns
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 300g minced lamb/beef
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp cardamom
- Salt and pepper
- 300g peas
- 1 stock cube
- 1½ cups long grain rice (washed and soaked for 20 mins)
- 270g filo pastry sheets
- ½ cup melted butter
- Toasted pine nuts and almonds
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and brown the meat pieces on all sides. Remove any excess liquid; add whole spices and enough water to cover the meat by two inches. Once the water boils, remove any impurities, cover, lower the heat and cook until tender. Once cooked, strain the meat and reserve the stock for the rice.
- To make the rice, heat the vegetable oil in a large pot. Add the minced meat and cook until browned. Drain any excess liquid and add the spices and peas. Crumble the stock cube and add to the meat mixture. Add the rice and mix well, making sure each grain is coated with oil. Add the stock from the meat, adding water if it is not enough to cover the rice. Once it comes to the boil, lower the heat to the lowest setting, cover and let the rice cook. Taste the stock when it comes to the boil and adjust the seasoning and spices to your taste.
- Once the rice is cooked, allow it to cool almost completely.
- To make the filo pouches, use a small bowl; brush it with melted butter and place one filo sheet in it. Brush the filo sheet lightly with butter then add another, making sure the entire circumference of the bowl’s edges are covered with filo. Brush the second filo sheet with butter then layer pieces of meat, toasted almonds and pine nuts, and then enough rice to fill the bowl. Press down lightly and then use the filo sheets to cover the rice, brushing them with butter to act as glue.
- Turn over each finished pouch onto a baking sheet. Depending on how many you are making, you may want to use several bowls to keep the pouches covered so they don’t dry out.
- Bake in the oven at 200C until brown and crispy. Serve with some cucumber yogurt or salad and enjoy!