Crispy pastry, beef and lots of aromatic spices. What’s not to like?
It’s hard to know where to start with börek. Shapes, textures and fillings can all be varied according to taste. The varieties are nearly endless.
Börek is a generic term for savoury pastry made from wrapping thin loaves known as yufka or filo pastry with a filling and then cooking it. It’s thought to hail from Anatolia in today’s central Turkey. It spread considerably during Ottoman times and today it’s a traditional food way beyond the central Anatolian region.
When Turkish friends learn I make börek regularly, the reaction is almost always the same. Really?! Of course, what they have in mind is the traditional börek, the one their grandmother makes with pastry that she’s spent hours rolling out to a perfect thinness.
However, like most Turks today, I don’t make my own pastry. I buy freshly made yufka, the large, circular and slightly thicker version Turks use for börek, at my weekly market. Or, as in this recipe, I buy ready-made filo pastry of the sort you can also use to make baklava.
This version yields a flaky börek, almost like a thinner (and more delicious) version of puff pastry. It goes incredibly well with a spiced meat filling with lots of flavour. Here, I’ve used almost the whole repertoire of Middle Eastern spices to give an aromatic flavour to the meat. I’ve also chucked in a dried apricot, to balance the spices with a little sweetness, and roughly chopped pistachios, for a luxurious crunch.
This börek works a treat both for lunch and dinner. As virtually all böreks it’s also perfect for bringing along when you need something on-the-go. Serve with a salad or two on the side, if you like. Yields around 12 börek rolls serving 2-4, depending on what else is on offer.
Börek with spiced beef and pistachios
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 300 g minced beef (or lamb)
- 30 g pistachios, roughly chopped
- 10 g (i.e. one) dried apricot, finely chopped
- 1 tsp Turkish red pepper flakes (pul biber)
- 0.5 tsp ground cumin
- 0.5 tsp ground allspice
- 0.5 tsp paprika
- 0.25 tsp ground coriander
- 0.25 tsp ground ginger
- 0.25 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (without thick stalks)
- 2 tbsp butter
- salt and pepper
- 1 egg
- 100 ml olive oil
- 100 ml yoghurt
- 100 ml whole milk
- c. 12 sheets of filo pastry (c. 225 g)
- nigella seeds and/or sesame seeds, to sprinkle on top
- Preheat the oven to 180 C (355 F).
- Fry the onion in the olive oil over a medium heat, stirring regularly, until slightly coloured but not burnt, 10-15 minutes.
- Increase the heat and add the meat, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. When the meat is cooked through, mix in pistachios, apricot and spices. Fry for another couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Season. Take off the heat and mix in the parsley and butter.
- In a bowl, whisk together the egg and olive oil. When blended, whisk in the yoghurt, then finally the milk.
- Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
- Take out the filo pastry and cover with a damp cloth. Filo pastry dries out very quickly, so don’t skip this step.
- Take two sheets of pastry, making sure they are exactly on top of each other. My sheets are roughly 38×32 cm. Cut the sheets in half length-wise. That’ll leave you two double sheets of roughly 38×16 cm. Spread around 1 tbsp of the egg mixture on each, making sure the pastry is thoroughly moist on top, but not so much it’s wet all the way through. Add a tbsp or so of the filling at the short end furthest away from you. Roll it up until the filling is covered. Fold in the sides and continue rolling until you reach the end. Place on the baking parchment, seam side down. See pictures below for the whole process. Repeat until you have run out of filling.
- Brush the börek rolls with the egg mixture. There will probably be too much of the mixture. Only apply enough to make sure the böreks are nicely moistened but not oversaturated. Sprinkle over a few nigella seeds or sesame seeds.
- Roast until nicely golden, 30-40 minutes. Leave for a few minutes before serving. Börek reheats well, for example in a dry pan over low heat.