Ramadan Series: Lebanese Fusion Goat’s Cheese and Roasted Cumin Rolls

Famous throughout the Levant and present in almost all mezze platters, the traditional Lebanese filo pastry rolls stuffed with cheese are a delicious way to bid adieu to the hunger of the day. Crisp on the outside and oozing with flavor from the inside, these rolls are little bites of heaven. Traditionally these rolls are molded into the shape of thin cigars and stuffed with feta cheese. They are so delightful that they do not need to rely on a dip to bring out their flavors. The key to this simple appetizer is the cheese that is being used; it should exude subtlety as well as well rounded flavors. But then again, with such dishes it is best to let your imagination run wild and choose the stuffing that would best satisfy your epicurean curiosity.

Lebanese Fusion Goat's Cheese and Roasted Cumin Rolls

My mother-in-law was visiting this last month and being a fabulous cook, for me it was like attending a cooking class free of charge. I felt like a little girl standing in front of the stove, eager to learn her various techniques and recipes. On my list of recipes to learn was her homemade creamy goat’s cheese. It was only till she began the process did I realize how simple it was. Once in the fridge, it took me days to decide what to do with it. Pairing it with roasted cumin, I decided to made cheese rolls. And to further enhance the taste, I decided to coat the outer skin of the pastry with fresh cumin seeds as well. Instead of using filo pastry, I made the rolls using rice paper. The thin rice paper helped to keep the rolls crisp as well as let the flavors of the filling stand out. Avoid using any pastry that would overpower the taste of the filling. It was an experiment that luckily worked.

Lebanese Fusion Goat's Cheese and Roasted Cumin Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 2 liters fresh goat’s milk
  • 5oog plain yoghurt
  • 1 pkt rice paper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preparation:

  • The first step is to prepare the goat’s cheese at least a day in advance
  • Bring the milk to a boil and then let it simmer on low heat
  • As it simmers, add the yoghurt while stirring
  • Let it be on low heat for 2-3 minutes as the curd separates from the liquid and it takes the shape of chunky cheese
  • Once completely separated, pour into a large sieve to let all the liquid run through
  • Let it cool for 10 minutes and then using the back of a plate squeeze all the excess liquid out of the cheese. Let it remain covered for about 1 hour before refrigerating
  • Once it has completely cooled off, cover and refrigerate overnight
  • For the rolls, take out as much cheese as you would require, as this recipe makes a large quantity of cheese
  • Mix the olive oil and spices with the crumbly cheese in a large bowl. Do not stir too much as you want the texture to remain crumbly and not turn into a paste. Let it sit for 5 minutes
  • Meanwhile, roast half of the cumin in a heated pan till it becomes a shade darker
  • Add it to the cheese and give it one final stir
  • Sprinkle a handful of the remaining cumin seeds on the surface being used to make the rolls
  • Dip the rice paper in lukewarm water and place atop the cumin seeds. The sticky consistency of the rice paper helps the cumin seeds to stick on its outer skin
  • Place the filling in the center vertically, so that they form thin long cigars once rolled. Do not over stuff as the rice paper can tear
  • Carefully place the left side of the rice paper over the stuffing vertically and then wrap from the side closest to you horizontally, next the furthermost side horizontally as well. Finally start to roll vertically from the left to the right. This method secures the filling completely
  • Repeat with the remaining rice papers
  • Heat oil in a pan and carefully place the rolls to cook for 3 minutes on each side till golden
  • Once cooked, place on kitchen rolls to soak up the excess oil
  • Serve immediately

Lebanese Fusion Goat's Cheese and Roasted Cumin Rolls

The strong and warm aroma that emanates from the cumin while the rolls are being cooked creates an earthy atmosphere in the kitchen. The fragrance is akin to a herbaceous invitation for all your sense especially your appetite. Oozing with natural flavors that use your taste buds as an exploratory playground, these rolls are best eaten on their own without the need for any synthetic sauces or dips. Just writing about them is making my mouth water. A good recipe to give your palate that special treat.

Lebanese Fusion Goat's Cheese and Roasted Cumin Rolls