Taste test a savoury Moroccan lamb pie on Pi Day
For this math-celebrating date, Julie Van Rosendaal adapts buttery pastry dish stuffed with stew
If you're thinking of celebrating Pi Day, here's one that doesn't require a rolling pin.
March 14, the fourteenth day of the third month, is deemed Pi Day to honour the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.
It's an infinite decimal — commonly shortened to 3.14 — that's recited as a challenge up to hundreds of digits.
This pie is savoury so you can make it for dinner instead of dessert.
It's essentially a braise — lamb shoulder cooked low and slow with onion, garlic, spices, lemon and tomatoes — topped with buttered sheets of phyllo pastry, crumpled up like balls of newspaper to be baked on top.
It may not technically be pie — you can't cut it into slices — but it does contain pastry and is baked in a pie dish.
It's completely divine, not difficult to make, and would be great to make when friends come over.
You'll only need about five pieces of phyllo pastry, but the rest can be rewrapped and put back into the freezer. (If you think you'll make this again, consider taking out five more sheets and wrapping them separately so that you don't have to thaw as many next time.)
If you don't have ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend made of cumin, coriander, ginger and warm spices such as cinnamon and allspice, you can leave it out and it will be just fine. I thought I had some, but didn't, and the stew was still completely amazing. Just bump up the coriander and cumin a bit.
Moroccan lamb pie
This recipe was adapted (with thanks!) from BBC Good Food. If you like, add some cooked lentils or dry split red lentils to the mix along with the lamb. No one will know they're there.
Canola or olive oil, for cooking.
1 kg (2¼ lb) lamb shoulder or leg, cut into one-inch cubes.
1 large onion, chopped.
2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed.
1 tbsp Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout, optional.
2 tsp coriander.
2 tsp cumin.
2-3 tbsp flour.
½ cup cooked green or blue lentils or about ¼ cup dry split red lentils (optional).
398 ml (14 oz ) can diced or stewed tomatoes or cherry tomatoes.
1 cinnamon stick.
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses.
1 tbsp honey.
4 to 6 phyllo sheets.
¼ cup butter, melted.
Preheat the oven to 300 F/149 C.
In a large, heavy skillet, braising dish or ovenproof Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and brown the lamb in batches, getting it nice and dark on all sides and sprinkling with salt as it cooks.
Transfer the meat to a plate as it browns so that you don't crowd the pan.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook for a few minutes, until golden.
Return the meat to the pan along with the spices and cook for a minute, then sprinkle the flour overtop and stir to coat the meat.
Add the lentils if you're using them, tomatoes and a can full of water. Stir to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Grate in some of the lemon zest, then cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the juice into the stew and toss in the lemon halves, as well.
Add the cinnamon stick, pomegranate molasses and honey.
Stir, cover and transfer to the oven for 2 to 2½ hours, stirring once or twice if you think of it.
Make sure the liquid hasn't cooked down too much. If it seems dry, add more water.
The stew can be made ahead, cooled and refrigerated for a few days. Just rewarm it when you're ready to bake.
Increase the oven temperature to 375 F/190 C.
Leave the mixture in the baking pan or pot, or transfer it to a pie plate or shallow baking dish.
Brush each sheet of phyllo with melted butter and crumple it up like a piece of newspaper, arranging the pieces on top of the stew.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is deep golden and the stew is bubbling around the edge.
The original recipe suggested topping with sliced almonds and pomegranate arils, but I find it beautiful as is.
Serving: Dinner for about four to six people.
- MORE RECIPES | Julie Van Rosendaal's recipe for hamantaschen
- MORE RECIPES | Julie Van Rosendaal's sausage and bean soup recipe