Crispy, golden and delicious, Moroccan cigars are a traditional favorite of the Moroccan kitchen. Served as appetizers at celebrations or holiday meals, cigarim have become especially popular in Israel. They can be found on the menus of Mizrahi restaurants, freshly fried and ready for take out in the Shuk or in the freezer section of the supermarkets.
The combination of a crispy shell and a spicy, savory filling makes cigars a wonderful treat. They are most commonly filled with spicy ground beef or lamb, and occasionally mashed potatoes. The shell is a very thinly rolled Warka or brik dough, that is made of flour, water and salt. Not as thin as Phyllo pastry, the Warka dough becomes exquisitely crisp and flaky when fried. If Warka dough can’t be found at the kosher market, spring roll wrappers make a great stand in.
In North Africa, cigars also take a star turn as a dessert. The cigars are filled with almond paste sweetened with honey and scented with orange blossom water, then fried and dipped into a simple sugar syrup. This festive treat is served at weddings, hennas and engagements, as well as for Jewish holidays.
Rachel’s Turn: My mother loved to make cigars for the holidays and special occasions. Nowadays, I rarely have time for such labor-intensive recipes and for health reasons, I prefer not to fry food. But on the last night of Hanukkah, I grew nostalgic for these incredible irresistible treats from my childhood. I was inspired by the Impossible burger meat in my refrigerator to make cigars for my vegetarian brothers. I served them with a trio of dipping sauces—spicy red Harissa, sesame tahini and rich creamy hummus.
The cigars proved to be a fun treat and a real crowd pleaser.
2 tablespoons oil
1 12oz package Impossible Burger “ground beef”
2 cloves garlicGarli, crushed
2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons cumin
1 cup water
Salt & pepper to taste
Cigar wrappers or spring roll sheets
1 egg white, beaten
Lightly heat oil in a large pan.
Add “ground beef” and sauté for a few minutes.
Add crushed garlic and sauté for another two minutes.
Add water, then cover pan and simmer until all water evaporates.
In a colander, thoroughly drain meat until it is dry.
Place in a food processor fitted with blade attachment.
Add cumin and chili flakes.
Pulse until ingredients turn into a pate.
Add salt and pepper to taste and pulse one more time.
Cut cigar wrappers in half, forming two long rectangles.
Place a teaspoon of meat filling at bottom of wrapper, fold in sides and roll up.
Seal with egg white or water.
Heat oil and fry.
Cigars can be frozen raw and fried straight out of the freezer.