If you've ever spent time in a Turkish, Greek or middle-eastern bakery, you'll have surely crossed paths with börek. Börek is the name given to filo pastry snacks usually filled with spinach, white cheese, potato or minced meat and rolled or layered in various ways. Head further east and you will find filo deep fried in the form of spicy samosa and oriental spring rolls. Same pastry, different fillings. After growing frustrated with the seemingly rigid ingredient rules of Turkish cuisine, I started experimenting with more creative börek styles a few years ago. In fact 'spring roll gül börek' was my first wild attempt at breaking the börek rules.
This is my third year making Christmas Dinner börek, and I love it, not only because it's a fun way to utilise the leftovers that greet you when you open the fridge on Boxing Day, but it also combines my half-Brit, half-Turk heritage.
To make börek you need 'yufka' (filo pastry). Here in Turkey it is rolled into large circular sheets, but in the UK it is found in rectangular sheets, so your rolling techniques will have to be adapted. Every locality in Turkey has a 'yufkacı' - a little family-owned shop producing and selling only yufka. It perhaps isn't necessary to point out that yufka makers and their offspring are generally a little on the chubby side! If you can't find your local doughy yufkacı, all the supermarkets in Turkey sell yufka, usually in packs of 5 sheets.
Now I do not consider myself a recipe blogger, though the lengthy introduction may have had you fooled there :-), so my measurements are vague, cooking timings are usually judged by the eye, and the filling ingredients are up to you! If you can handle a recipe that ain't too specific (think using 'glug' as a measurement) then here's a rough guide to creating these beautiful lumps of Crimbo leftovers!
Recipe makes 8 gül (rose-shaped) börek:
2 yufka circles cut into quarters
A small bowl containing 1 egg fork-mixed with 75ml milk, 75ml olive oil, a glug of soda water plus a teaspoon of salt
A metal or pyrex baking tray
A sheet of baking paper
A pastry brush
Veggies chopped into tiny pieces
Meat (turkey, chicken, sausage, bacon, goose, pheasant whatever you have!)
Cheese (if you forgot to put away the cheese board, this is the best way to use that dried up cheese!)
Nigella or sesame seeds to sprinkle on top
-Turn on the oven to 200° to pre-heat
-Take one triangle, pointy end pointing up, and brush with some of the eggy mixture
-Using your hands, along the bottom curve, make a line of mashed vegetables, then add the other ingredients on the top
-Start rolling from the bottom up to the point (I like to stop rolling half way and brush on a little more eggy mixture)
-Then roll the long sausage into a spiral (don't worry if your pastry breaks, it will be fine) and place in the tray
-Once you've run out of fillings, or pastry, brush the remaining eggy mixture over the top of all the rolls and sprinkle your nigella or sesame seeds
-Oven bake for around 20-25 mins at 200 degrees - when they start to brown, they're done!
-You will do a lot of hand-wiping while making börek, it's the only annoying part!
-It helps if your mashed potatoes and veg aren't too moist, as mine were this morning! Soggy veg means your pastry will break when rolling, though it isn't a big problem
A tray of this börek, along with all the cheese and chocolate that still needs eating, gets us through Boxing Day. If you still have a few dishes of leftovers in the fridge from yesterday's feast why not pop to the shop and pick up some yufka. Otherwise, I'll look forward to hearing how your Boxing Day börek attempt goes in 2023!
Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year full of adventure, discovery and ample relaxation.