When I think back on my vacation to Turkey I always think about the food first. The art that I saw, the beautiful mosques and the palaces covered in mosaics were fantastic but it’s the food that stands out the most in my memory. I think it’s because I hadn’t had food like that before. We ate cucumbers and tomatoes for breakfast with salty cheese and bread. Braised eggplant in a tomato sauce with earthy spices and a dash of cinnamon served with yoghurt. We consumed tea where ever we went served in little tulip shaped glasses with gold filigree. Best of all were the pastries made with layers and layers of filo dough.
The first dish that might pop into your head when thinking about the Balkan region and filo dough would be baklava. It’s great stuff, chopped nuts between sheets of buttery, flakey filo dough all doused in a honey and rose syrup. It can be a little over powering on the sugar even for my sweet tooth so a good alternative to baklava if you don’t have a sweet tooth is börek, think of them as filo cigars.
There are a lot of different options out there for fillings, I chose to do a meat version and served them with a charred green onion dip. The borek have a light crispy exterior that crack under your fingertips and are stuffed with an earthy aromatic beef mixture. I highly recommend you don’t skip out on the sumac, it has a tart lemon like flavor that can’t be recreated with just lemon juice, look for it in a specialty Middle Eastern grocery store. The charred green onions in the dip add great depth of and a hint of sweetness from being cooked. Next time I make this dip I’m gonna double it and dip everything in it.
In a very hot pan char the green onions and garlic until blackened, but not charcoal.
Add them to the bowl of a food processor along with the remaining ingredients except the yoghurt, blend to a smooth paste.
Add the yoghurt and blend till fully incorporated, refrigerate until needed.
In a large pan over medium high heat brown the meat with the spices and salt, cook until there is no more pink.
Add the minced onion and tomato paste, cook until the onions start to wilt a little and the tomato paste sticks to the bottom of the pan.
Turn off the heat and deglaze with the beef stock, scrap the bottom of the pan to lift off any caramelized flavor bits.
Finish with the herbs and egg. This can be made ahead of time, it’s easier to work with the filling when it’s cooled.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Unroll the filo dough and cut the sheets in half, either direction, doesn’t matter. Place one sheet on your work surface and cover the rest with a towel and sprinkle a little water on the towel to help keep things moist.
Brush the filo sheet lightly with butter, add about 2 tablespoons of filing mixture on center bottom edges, shape it into a little bit of a rectangle leaving about an inch of filo around all edges. Fold the edges in along the length of the dough and roll them up into little cigars.
I’m a tall ship cook, I prefer to cook with water beneath me, no land in sight and lots of mouths to feed. I like to play with bold flavors, pushing people’s taste buds in new directions and using a recipe as a guideline, my hands are my measuring spoons. Read More about “About Me”…