Lamb filo cigars with tzatziki

Stuffing mix for squid

Greek Bible, 258pp.
by Yvonne Kaponis
Penguin Group (Australia), Camberwell, Victoria, 2010
Cooking on page 32–34

I’ve loved Greek food ever since I first tasted the real thing when I was in Athens in 1976.

Then for most of the 1990s—when I was working full-time and more—we had a great Greek couple as our once-a-week cleaners and gardeners.

Julie and Nicko were amazing. They looked after us so well, and the big bonus was that Nicko had been a chef. They came to us on Tuesdays and if I left ingredients out on the kitchen bench, Nicko would cook that night’s dinner. We sure ate well.

So I was delighted to find this book in the local library. It’s packed with recipes, including many I remember Nicko making and much, much more.

So let’s start on page 32.

lamb cigars in filo pastry

Lamb filo cigars with tzatziki

2 tablespoons (40 ml/1 1/2 oz) olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) lamb mince
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and crushed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 x 400-g (14-oz) can diced tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts or pistachio nuts
1/2 cup sultanas (optional)
1/2 cp chopped fresh parsley
1 x 375-g (13-oz) packet filo pastry
3 tablespoons (60 g/ 2 oz) butter, melted
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
tzatziki to serve (recipe below)

Onions, garlic and spices lamb and herbs adding pistachios to squid stuffing buttering filo pastry

Pre-heat oven to 160°C (320°F). Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and the oregano, and sauté for 2 minutes until onion is soft. Add lamb and cook, stirring, until lamb has browned (about 8 minutes). Stir in cumin, cinnamon, and allspice. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook until most of the juice has evaporated (about 15 minutes).

Add nuts and sultanas (if using) to the mixture. Remove pan from heat and let cool. Add parsley and check seasoning.

On a clean work surface, place three sheets of filo pastry one on top of the other, brushing in between each layer with melted butter, and sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese (if using). Cut filo pastry into thirds lengthways, place a tablespoon of mixture on the short edge of one strip, closest to you. Roll filo over filling and fold edges over, then roll up into a log, brushing with melted butter as you go. Repeat with the remaining filo and mixture.

Place the rolls on the prepared tray, brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with paprika. Bake in the oven for about 20–30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with tzatziki. Makes about 30.

Tzatziki (from page 37)

2 cups (500 ml.17 fl oz) Greek-style yoghurt
1 long Continental cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (20 ml/ 3/4 fl oz) olive oil
1 tablespoon (20 ml/ 3/4 fl oz) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir well, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to blend the flavours.

lamb rolls

How it played out
The supermarket hasn’t had minced (ground) lamb recently, so I bought this ingredient the other day from the country butcher in Yass, 50 kilometres from Canberra.

When it came to the recipes, I made the tzatziki first so it had plenty of time to mature in the fridge.

Then it was time to tackle the filling. I pretty much followed the recipe as written, using pistachios and parmesan and skipping the sultanas. Got Poor John to shell the nuts, which took him about 20 minutes. I appreciated the fact the instructions included timings, such as ‘about 8 minutes’.

I couldn’t find my wide pastry brush, so I went through extra butter using the narrow one to do the filo sheets. I also decided to cut the lengths of filo in half rather in thirds. Thirds are great for appetiser-sized servings, but these were for dinner, so I wanted the finished ‘cigars’ to be bigger. I finished up with 17 cigars.


These were sensational. So full of flavour and great textures too. The tzatziki was the perfect finishing touch.

We had three each for dinner and the rest were enjoyed as snacks over the next few days.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since I was first in Greece. Time for a revisit.

But I have been in the neighbourhood. Here’s a post from Romania.


About leggypeggy

Intrepid overland traveller, keen photographer, avid cook—known to jump out of airplanes and do other silly things. Do not act my age.
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10 Responses to Lamb filo cigars with tzatziki

  1. These cigars look and sound extraordinary, and about the only cigars I could tolerate. My grandfather smoked the real ones, a scent that always made me gag. Still, he’s been gone many decades and I kinda miss his stinky cigars.

    I long ago learned that when a recipe posts prep time as 15 minutes and cooking time as 45 minutes, I can plan on eating sometime during the week – if I attempt the recipe at all!

    • leggypeggy says:

      It seemed so odd to type ‘cigars’ for the title of the recipe, but as usual I had to be faithful to the words in the cookbook.

      This wasn’t very time-consuming to make, other than shelling the pistachios, so buy them shelled or do them (and the tzakziki) a day or two ahead. It’s a delicious recipe and worth the effort.

  2. Lamb in any shape or form is always tasty. I never heard the term ‘cigar’ applied to food, but there you go. There is always a first. As it happens. Yesterday, I cooked a nice lamb curry which included frozen spinach, coconut cream with turmeric, and lots of spices.

  3. payel says:

    Just find out that you are a good cook too!👌

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