Ouzi , or filo wrapped bundles of spiced Middle Eastern rice are an easy way to bring a wow factor to a meal. Golden brown flaky filo pastry stuffed with spiced rice and meat, served with a cucumber and mint enhanced yogurt. A classic that’s delicious and made accessible with this step by step guide.
What is ouzi?
Although ouzi can also be known as whole lamb on rice, in the Levant, it’s more commonly how we refer to individual stuffed rice parcels. This is when you have cooked, spiced rice with minced meat and usually peas and pine nuts wrapped in dough. The dough can be filo dough or puff pastry. I like the crispiness that filo gives- it’s less buttery and doughy than puff pastry.
Ouzi is really, really good. It’s a staple of my childhood, that we’d usually make for special occasions. There’s nothing like breaking into that puffy buttery golden dough to the warm spiced rice inside.
How to make the ouzi rice:
I have a whole post on this. This Lebanese rice (hashweh) recipe, is made of basmati rice thats cooked with all spice, cinnamon, salt and pepper, frozen peas and cooked minced meat. It looks like this:
How to work with filo dough:
The filo dough should be thawed, but still cool. I’d recommend thawing overnight in the fridge (in the closed box) , but I thawed mine for a few hours before using and it still worked out great.
Filo dough dries out very quickly, so while assembling, lay a damp kitchen towel over the opened pack of dough. Don’t panic if the dough tears. Just grab another sheet, or use the same one because it’ll be stacked on top of other filo dough sheets and it’ll all balance out.
In order to determine how large to cut the filo dough squares, first find the bowl you’ll use to assemble your rice mound. You need to cut a size of dough at least twice as big as the bowl so that the dough can line the bowl with still enough left over to drape completely over the mound of rice.
Assembling the filo wrapped rice:
Brush the inside of a small bowl with melted butter (the size of individual potions of ouzi). This prevents the filo dough from sticking to the inside of the bowl (learnt this the hard way lol).
Place four sheets of filo pastry on top of each other inside the bowl, pressing with your fingers until the pastry takes the shape of the bowl, with a lot of extra dough left outside the rim.
Fill the bowl with a good 1/3-1/2 cup of cooked and COOLED rice mixture. Rice should be cooled to avoid cooking the pastry. Wrap the extra ends of dough one the rice and smush the filo down to seal. Flip this mound so that the flat side is down onto a lined baking sheet. The photos below demonstrate the different steps:
Once all your mounds are assembled, brush all over with melted butter to get a nice golden brown colour in the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes in a previously preheated oven (180 C or 350 F) or so or until pastry is golden brown
What to serve ouzi with:
A yogurt mint salad is classic. Thick Greek style yogurt is mixed with a pinch of salt and some dried mint. You can see more details on how to make it in this post . Another alternative is plain yogurt if you prefer! You need something a little saucy to dip the bread and rice in. You can definitely serve this with a green salad I’d advise yogurt too.
How long can oozi be stored?
3-4 days in the fridge, and this tastes great (although less crispy) warmed in a microwave. You can also heat in the oven which will retain the crispiness of the filo pastry better.
Oozi – Filo wrapped rice
For the rice:
- 2 tsp olive oil small
- 2 small red onions, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 500 g ground beef or lamb 1 lb
- 1 tsp all spice or seven spices
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2-1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper to taste
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 3.5 cups water
- 200 g frozen peas
- pinch salt, pepper, and seven spices/all spices
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 package fillo pastry sheets , thawed
- 2 tbsp melted butter
Make the rice:
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the diced onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring continuously.
- Add the crushed garlic, and cook for a further minute or so, then add the minced lamb.
- Cook for a minute, breaking apart any clumps of meat with a wooden spoon, then add all the spices (seven spice or all spice, cinnamon, salt and black pepper). Continue cooking, a good 6-8 minutes until lamb is all cooked through and brown with no pink bits remaining. Keep stirring and breaking apart clumps of meat through out- you can even use a potato masher to break the meat apart a little.
- If desired, drain any extra fat. Taste the mince and adjust for seasoning.
- Soak the basmati rice for 15-20 minutes, then drain and rinse with water until water runs clear.
- To a large saucepan, add the minced meat (I don't always use all of it, I usually use around 300 grams or so), plus the drained basmati rice, the frozen peas, and 3.5 cups of water. Sprinkle with a big pinch of salt, pepper, and some additional all spice or seven spices. Stir to combine.
- Bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil, uncovered, then cover with a tight fitting lid, reduce heat to a low simmer, and simmer for 20 minutes or until water is all absorbed. Remove pan from heat but let it sit covered for an additional 10 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork. Mix in the toasted pine nuts, and let rice cool before wrapping it withfilo dough.
- Heat oven to 180 C (350F)
- Choose a small dessert bowl that'll be the approximate size of each individual wrapped rice parcel. Brush the inside of the bowl with melted butter to prevent the pastry from sticking.
- Layer four sheets of fillo pastry stacked on top of each other into the bowl, and trim the ends so that theres enough filo dough to cover the inside of the bowl and be able to wrap up your mound of rice. Depending on how big you bowl is, you'll probably need a heaped 1/3 -1/2 cup of rice per bowl. Bring the ends of the filo dough up and over the rice then flip it so the mound side is up and place on a parchment lined baking tray.
- Once all your mounds have been assembled (you've finished all the rice) brush the mounds with melted butter and bake at 180 C (350F) for 30 minutes or until golden brown