Börek – a Turkish version of rolled & filled pastry

Yufka pastry for börek

I bought these Turkish pastry leaves or yufka for börek at Mediterranean Specialty Foods on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. The sheets available there (which are something like phyllo) are pre-cut in rounds or triangles. I used the triangles because I was making sigara (little cigars) börek. According the official Turkish tourism site, börek is a traditional breakfast food. Suits me, though I would eat anytime. 

Every culture has a rolled and filled pastry, sometimes many – har gow, perogiesCornish pastiestamales – and I love them all. Living in Vancouver you can get most things to make the basics of any of them. Of course, they’re not the same as the original and what I devise is always a whiff of that. As a cook, I don’t care much about authentic. Food is fluid and the attraction is messing with ideas to see where something can go. 

I figure that börek (or borek or boerek), is like most stuffed and rolled things – diverse as the cooks who make them. Diversity should be respected. I respect it.

Pastry like yufra from Turkey is throughout the Middle East, Greece, and North Africa. It has different names and thicknesses depending on where it’s from, but it’s used in the same way – to encase or layer fillings, sweet and savoury. Because yufra is slightly thicker than phyllo, it doesn’t rip so easily and the recipe I used only called for one sheet per sigara. 

This is that recipe. They came to a pretty good end. I got rolls that looked like the ones on the package (not a great picture but you have enough to go looking for the product). These are baked not deep fried as many recipes suggest. Deep frying is something I don’t do well, though I always appreciate it when I find someone who does.

Baked Sigara Börek with Meat Filling

Filling

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. water
  • 250 gr. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion – finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic – minced
  • 1/2 c. cracked, pitted green olives – chopped
  • 1/2 c. walnuts – finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground Aleppo pepper  
  • 2 tsp. pomegranate molasses (more if you like the sweet-sour taste)
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 green onions – chopped
  • 1/2 c. parsley – finely chopped
  • melted butter for brushing on before baking

Cook ground beef in olive oil with onions and garlic until soft and brown. Add everything else, except parsley and green onions, and sauté on medium-low heat until flavours are blended – about 10 minutes. Mixture should be moist but not wet. Off heat, mix in parsley and green onion. Let cool.

Assembling

  • Peel off a pastry leaf and position wide side in front of you, pointy end away.
  • Spread about 2-3 tbsp. of filling across the top, 1/2″ from the edge. Roll to pointy end so you have a cigar shape (about 1-2″ in diameter)
  • Pinch in the edges and brush all over with melted butter. If you like, sprinkle with sesame seeds or lightly dust with coarse salt. 
  • Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment. Cover with a lightly dampened cloth until the pan is full and ready to bake.
  • Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp.

There’s no website that I can find for Mediterranean Specialty Foods, where I bought my pastry, but the store is at 1824 Commercial Dr., Vancouver. Even if they don’t have yufka they always have really good ready-made filled savoury pastries to go. I always buy too many and then eat them all right away. That’s okay though, then I don’t go crazy buying produce at the nearby Persia Foods. Just go there and at least buy some feta cheese from the 6 or 7 kinds. It’s an important store in Vancouver.