Peynirli börek – Turkish cheese pastries

These pastries are made in many shapes and sizes in Turkey – sometimes baked in the oven in a large dish and then cut into portions like a pie, sometimes they are cigar-shaped rolls, and often they are these little triangular delights.  They are usually  made with filo pastry, filled with sheep’s or goats’ cheese and herbs.  It’s quite difficult to fold them tidily when you have a huge sheet of pastry, as they were sold in Istanbul when I was young.  When my mother wanted to serve böreks for a party she used to ask a Turkish helper to make them for her.  I’ve found an easier way to make the folded pastries here in France because I can buy Moroccan brick pastry which is sold in circular sheets about 30 cm in diameter.  This pastry looks different to filo pastry, but the finished result once cooked tastes the same to me as I remember from Turkey.

Today I used ricotta cheese, but usually I use a fresh sheep’s cheese called brousse, and you can use any soft, creamy cheese. They’re nice made with chopped sweet onion and oregano, but I didn’t have these today so I added some chopped thyme, a couple of finely chopped cloves of garlic, a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of ground piment d’Espelette (paprika) to 250 grams of ricotta.  Then I began to fold the böreks using a method I found described once on a packet of brick pastry:

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I cut all the circles of pastry in half and then take one at a time and fold down the rounded side over the straight side.

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I put a spoonful of the cheese mixture at one end of the pastry, leaving enough to fold over at the end.

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I fold the flap over and then carry on folding over the triangle until I reach the other end.

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For the last turnover I brush some water onto the pastry so that it holds together.

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When they’re all ready they can be fried in olive oil – you need to use quite a lot of oil as they burn if they are too dry.

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The böreks should be served hot, on their own as a first course or with other mezes or tapas.

Just before I made these at lunch time today I saw this wonderful field of poppies next to a vineyard near Pézenas.

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A Turkish lunch

Ever since I was a teenager when my family lived in Turkey I’ve loved Turkish food and often cook the dishes I remember from those years, as my mother did too for the rest of her life.  She was a vegetarian so it was a cuisine that suited her perfectly. Today for lunch we ate some variations on old favourites.  Most of the preparation was done yesterday so it made for a very easy Sunday morning.

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Clockwise from the left: Kandil dolma peppers stuffed with rice and minced meat; black olives; purée of red pepper and pistachio; stuffed baked aubergines; hummus with tahina.

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I’ve put the recipe for the aubergines on my Food from the Mediterranean blog. 

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The stuffed kandil dolma peppers were a variation on what has become a theme of the summer – these are red unlike the green ones I used earlier in the summer.  I used to think that the green ones tasted better and last year we allowed just a few to ripen so that we could save seeds, but since I realised that cooking them in tomato sauce rather than baking them really brings out the flavour of the peppers I think the red ones are equally good, and pretty too!  I’ll confess that I used beef for these rather than my preferred lamb because it’s difficult to get lamb here, especially minced lamb, but easy to buy steacks hachés – burgers made with 100% beef.  I bought two, used one for the stuffing and put the other in the freezer for next time.  I rarely buy beef as I prefer to eat more locally produced meat and there are no cows anywhere near here because we don’t have the grass they need.

The red pepper and pistachio purée was a variation, brought about by necessity, of a Turkish dish that combines red pepper and walnuts.  The village shop didn’t have walnuts yesterday so I bought pistachios instead with excellent results.  I put 75 grams of shelled pistachios in the blender and turned them into a slightly lumpy powder, added a piece of day-old bread and two long sweet Spanish peppers from the garden, blended them all to a purée and added some olive oil, some salt and a squeeze of lemon.  It’s good for dipping crusty bread into.

The hummus was made by combining a tin of (drained) chickpeas in the blender with garlic to taste (we like quite a lot), salt, lemon juice, olive oil, tahina (sesame seed) paste and a little water to make the consistency right for dipping bread into it, then serving it garnished with olive oil and paprika.

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