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.  

Grassy Green Samosas

19 September 2019

This time round we’ve filled some filo pastry triangles with some fresh leafy greens. Inspired by Central Asia’s kok samsa, a small, deep-fried pie filled stuffed with chopped up greens, our take on this popular street snack mixes some peppery radish leaves with some tart sorrel-like leaves, leek and carrot.

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A grassy, leafy green samosa

A few weeks ago, we left Datça’s weekly market laden down with a selection of leafy greens – called ot (grass) in Turkish, including a bunch of radishes complete with leaves and an unidentified bunch of greens with a tart, lemony taste.

Further inspired by Turkey’s otlu pide and otlu börek, we chopped up a leek and fried it in olive oil and then mixed in some grated carrot before adding the leafy greens and spices. To make these pies you can use any leafy greens – Swiss chard and spinach also work well here.

Then we wrapped the filling in filo pastry, which can be bought from your local supermarket or Middle Eastern grocery shop – or you can try and make your own – here’s some tips on how to do it.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 samosas)

  • 12 sheets of filo pastry (approx 15 cm x 15 cm)
  • One leek
  • One carrot
  • One bunch each of sorrel and  radish leaves (use spinach and/or Swiss chard if you can’t find these)
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • One teaspoon dried thyme
  • One teaspoon sumac
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • Sprinkling of nigella seeds

Method 

  1. To make the filling, heat 25 ml olive oil in a heavy-based pan and cook the chopped leek over a medium heat until translucent. Add the grated carrot and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly. Add the herbs and spices and the roughly chopped greens and cook until the leaves are wilting.
  2. Place a layer of filo pastry on a flat surface dusted with flour. Brush with olive oil and add another sheet, brush with oil and then add one more layer. Cut the layers of filo into two triangles along the diagonal.
  3. Place a generous dollop of the filling in the middle of each triangle. Fold the edges of pastry over, brushing with more oil, to create a triangle-shaped pie like a samosa. Repeat the process until all the filling is used up.
  4. Place the pies on a greased baking tray and brush with more oil and sprinkle nigella seeds over them. Place the tray 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. Serve straight away with a salad of your choice.

Fesenjan for Beginners

18 January 2018

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’re going to be bucking the January detox trend with this super-rich, calorie-laden Iranian stew, Fesenjan (pronounced fesenjoon), that combines three of our favourite go-to ingredients – pomegranate, walnut and pumpkin.

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KCC’s Fesenjan Tart

Usually served as a thick stew with rice, we’ve decided to put it in a pie case to make a tasty walnut and pomegranate infused tart. Making this stew can be quite labour-intensive – shelling the walnuts, toasting them, crushing them, extracting the pomegranate seeds and so on, but the end result makes it well worth all the effort.

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Can’t get much fresher than this!

Look out for Nar Ekşisi (pomegranate syrup) or the sweeter Nar Ekşili Sos (pomegranate sauce) in your local Middle-Eastern shop or make your own. If using Nar Ekşisi, add a teaspoon or two of honey to the stew to make it a bit sweeter.

To save time you can use shop-bought pastry, but we think it tastes better with a homemade pie crust. To keep it vegan, we’ve used olive oil instead of butter to make our shortcrust pastry.

Ingredients (serves 4)

125 g shelled walnuts

one medium onion

500 g pumpkin or butternut squash

300 ml vegetable stock

30 ml olive oil

2-3 tablespoons pomegranate syrup or sauce (Nar Ekşisi or Nar Ekşili Sos in Turkish)

0.5 teaspoon cumin seeds

0.25 teaspoon cinnamon and turmeric

Black pepper

Handful of pomegranate seeds

Bunch of fresh parsley

200 g shortcrust pastry

Method

Toast the walnuts for 10 minutes over a low heat and then mince in a blender. Heat the olive oil and fry the onion in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat for ten minutes. Add the spices and then add the cubed pumpkin and stir to cover.

Pour over the vegetable stock, add the pomegranate molasses and the minced walnuts and cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked. Make sure the sauce is quite thick – if it’s runny, boil it until it starts to thicken.

Roll out the pastry and place it in a greased baking tray. Bake blind for ten minutes at 180c and then put the filling into the pie case. Cook for 40 minutes or so until the pastry starts to go golden brown.

Garnish the tart with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds and serve with saffron rice and a green salad.

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.