Börek with a Celtic Twist

25 February 2021

With the feast of St David, the patron saint of Wales, coming up on 1 March, we’re cooking with leeks. We’ll be combining this creamy-tasting cousin of the onion, which is one of the symbols of this country with a dragon on its flag, with crumbly white cheese in layers of filo pastry to give a Celtic twist to Turkey’s popular anytime snack – the börek.

Börek consists of thin sheets of pastry stuffed with cheese or vegetables. It is found in all corners of Turkey and alongside the more familiar fillings of white cheese, spinach or potato, it’s worth looking out for the lesser-spotted leek filled version, known as pırasalı börek in Turkish.

The leek is thought to have been adopted as a symbol by the Welsh in the 7th century when soldiers, fighting off an invasion by Saxons from the east, were advised to wear leeks in their helmets in order to distinguish the home fighters from the enemy. The battle was won and the leek is still worn by people in Wales to this day. Expect to see many being sported this Saturday in the run up to St David’s Day as Wales seek to repel more invaders from the east in the form of England’s rugby team.

To celebrate the occasion we’ve filled our börek with a riff on the Glamorgan sausage, a vegetarian, breadcrumb-covered speciality of south Wales made from leek and Caerphilly cheese. We also knocked up our own sheets of filo as Ramstore, the purveyor of all things Turkish in Kazakhstan, has shut its doors, a victim of the pandemic. This means that yufka, as the Turks call filo, is no longer easy to find in Almaty.

Ingredients (makes 4 böreks)

Filo Pastry

  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 20 ml white wine vinegar 
  • 150 ml warm water

Leek Filling

  • One leek (approx. 250 g)
  • 150 g crumbly white cheese
  • One teaspoon caraway seeds
  • One teaspoon of nigella, sesame or poppy seeds
  • 50 ml olive oil

Method

  • Make the filo pastry first. Combine the sieved flour with olive oil and white wine vinegar. Slowly add the water a bit at a time and mix it all together with a wooden spoon until the dough forms into a smooth ball. Knead for 10 minutes on a lightly-floured surface to make the dough more stretchy. Separate into eight golf-ball sized pieces. Lightly coat with olive oil and leave for an hour covered in clingfilm at room temperature.
  • For the leek filling, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the caraway seeds. Clean the leek thoroughly and roughly chop it into 0.5 cm rounds. Use all the leek, including the green bits, discarding the rough tops of the leaves. Add to the pan and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. When the leek has softened, turn off the heat and grate in the white cheese and combine well.
  • Roll out the filo sheets as thinly as you can using a rolling pin or the palm of your hand. It should be around 15 cm by 20 cm and become clear in places. Brush one sheet with olive oil and then place another on top. Add a quarter of the leek the filling along the shorter edge. Roll up the mixture into a cigar shape and tuck in the edges. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle nigella, sesame or poppy seeds (or all three) over the börek and cook for 20 minutes at 200 c, until they turn a golden-brown colour. Serve on its own or with a green salad or roasted root vegetables.  

Eating Albania

28 June 2018

Greetings from Albania, where, among other things, KCC has been on the trail of the byrek, the pie that fuels the Balkans.

From the capital Tirana to the resorts of the south via mountain strongholds such as Berat, we’ve tracked down some fine examples of this savoury pie. But more on this next time, as we haven’t yet had time to recreate this culinary delight at KCC H.Q.

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KCC’S Albanian feast

This time round we’ll have a look at some great salads that we’ve encountered on our travels. While in Tirana we visited a restaurant called Mullixhiu which cooks up some great dishes with organic Albanian ingredients.
At this time of year, the full array of fruit and vegetables are coming into season and we had a great salad made from thinly sliced courgettes and plums with a courgette flower sauce and another featuring beetroot, spinach and scattered fragments of dried filo pastry.
We’ve made a salad based on the first one that includes veggies and fruit: courgettes, pears, green peppers and capers served on a bed of lettuce to be precise.

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Waiting for a byrek to come along in Ksamil, Albania

With a spinach byrek sourced from one of the many byrektore shops in Ksamil a small resort on the Albanian Riviera, a tomato, pepper and onion salad, and some olives and white cheese, here’s our first Albanian feast.

Ingredients (serves 4)

One medium-sized courgette

One small pear

Two green peppers

One lettuce

Two juicy medium-sized tomatoes

One small red onion

A sprinkling of capers

Method

The key to the courgette salad is to make it just before eating – don’t let it sit around for too long. As for the tomato salad, make this one first and allow the flavours to mingle – the longer, the better.

Roughly chop the tomato and mix in a bowl with thin slices of red onion and green pepper. Set aside and let the flavours mix together while you make the courgette salad.

Shred the lettuce and line a serving bowl with it. Thinly slice the pepper and then the pear. Next slice the courgette as thinly as you can and then sprinkle the capers over the top. Add your preferred salad dressing and that’s it – you’re ready to go!

 

 

Who Ate All the Pies?

9 June 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is going to have a look at a local take on the pie – börek. 

This member of the baked, filled pastry club is made from thin layers of filo pastry, known as yufka in Turkey. It comes with a variety of fillings including spinach, white cheese, potatoes, grated courgettes, swiss chard, leeks or combinations of these fillings.

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Individual spinach börek ready for the oven

There are two main ways of preparing börek – in a large pan and then sliced after baking, or as an individual serving in a cigar-shape. Either way, the börek is a moreish treat so always make more than you think you’ll need!

Kindos Cookery Club will tell you how to make the individual servings today. To make the pan version, layer 3-4 sheets of filo pastry in a large, greased dish, brushing glaze between the layers (as in this recipe for a zesty leek, goat cheese and walnut tart). Next add the filling of your choice and then top it off with 3-4 more sheets of filo and sprinkle with nigella seeds. Follow the baking instructions below for the individual pies to cook the pan version.

Follow these steps to make some tasty individual white cheese and spinach börek.

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Ready to roll…

 

Ingredients (To make 5 individual pies)

15 sheets of filo pastry

500 g spinach

One medium-sized onion

100 g white cheese

50 ml olive oil

50 ml natural yogurt or milk

Fresh mixed herbs (mint, oregano, thyme,dill)

Salt and pepper

Nigella seeds

Method

To make the filling, heat some olive oil in a heavy-based pan and cook the chopped onion over a medium heat until translucent. Add the chopped, fresh herbs and washed and shredded spinach. Season with dashes of salt and pepper.

Cook until the spinach wilts and then add the crumbled white cheese. Mix well and allow to cool.

Make a glaze for the filo pastry by blending equal parts of olive oil and natural yogurt (or milk). Brush the glaze over one 15 cm x 15 cm sheet of filo (or triangle shapes if you can find them), then place another layer of pastry, glaze and finally one more sheet and glaze.

Put two generous dollops of filling onto the bottom edge of the layered filo sheets, leaving about 2 cm at each end. Roll the pie into a cigar shape and press the ends down.

Brush with glaze and sprinkle nigella seeds over the cigar.

Place on a greased baking tray and put into a pre-heated oven and bake at 200 °C (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or until the pies are golden brown in colour.