When we first moved to Prague the only “ethnic” grocery stores to be found were run by Vietnamese. I say ethnic in quotes because technically they could be called that but where not quite what you picture when you think of ethnic shops else where. Having freshly arrived from living in Paris where any and every type of ethnic foods could be found this took some getting use to. Sure the Vietnamese markets had some ramen, basic asian condiments and the best fresh fruit and vegetable selections but it didn’t quite make up for not finding some of the world ethnic foods and ingredients we love and missed. Fast forward to 2011 and things have really changed here. Now small ethnic markets selling Japanese, many asian products, basic Tex-Mex ingredients, authentic Italian, authentic Greek, and a variety of middle eastern products have begun popping up all over the city. Czechs seem to have embraced the idea of tasting and/or cooking world foods. Don’t get me wrong Czech food is hearty and very tasty, but I do love variety in my choices of both restaurants and ingredients to cook with.
Last week my husband and I went to check out a new middle eastern market that opened up in our neighborhood. We both absolutely love middle eastern cuisine, definitely one of our favorites. As we wondered through the small isles we were delighted with the selection of products from north Africa, the middle east, and even India. Along with the mandatory Lokum for my husband we picked up some grains, deli delicacies, pickled veggies and a humongous pack of Yukfa, which is a thicker version of Turkish Philo dough. You will surely see the ingredients pop up in recipes in the coming weeks or months. But today I will be sharing what I cooked with some of the Yufka/Philo dough. The first attempt I made Rolled Beef Borek. Okay so these aren’t quite Turkish Borek nor Balkan type Borek, but rather a fusion of both with my own take. But they did taste fantastic, so much so that my husband asked me to please remember how I made them so we could have them again soon. I’ve never made Borek before and I didn’t have time to look up instructions prior to cooking so I just winged it. The second attempt I made the same filling and instead of rolling the dough I made a meat pie. Assemble it just as you would a regular pie by layering a yufka or two on the bottom and as well as the top. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did.
Rolled Beef Borek or Yufka Beef Pie
500 g or 1 lb. ground beef (or a mix of ground beef and pork)*
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 small red pimentos or 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 pack (450 g or 15 oz) frozen garlic creamed spinach (I made my own w/milk) , drained
Turkish beyaz peynir cheese or feta cheese
olive oil or vegetable oil
melted butter, for brushing the Yufka
1-2 large eggs lightly beaten, for egg wash
* Please note that Turkish Muslims do not eat pork. So if you aim to make this more Turkish based used ground beef only. *
1. Defrost and warm up the garlic creamed spinach. Make sure most of the liquid evaporates or you will have to drain it all of the excess liquid. Set aside. (You could also use fresh spinach instead of frozen.) Heat just enough oil to coat the pan, once warm Add the ground/minced beef and cook all the way through. Drain off all extra fat. Remove meat from the pan and set aside.
2. Add a little bit of oil to the pan and once warm saute the onions until translucent. Add the finely chopped pimento/ pepper and saute for 3 minutes. Next add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add the beef back to the pan then sprinkle all of the seasonings into the pan, stir to distribute the spices well. Turn heat to low flame and allow to cook another 5 minutes. Turn heat off and set aside to cool slightly.
3. Preheat oven to 220 c and prepare a baking sheet. Have the melted butter and pastry brush ready. Once the beef has cooled down a bit, brush 1 extra large philo/ yukfa sheet with melted butter. Lay a thin layer of beef mixture in a straight line, top with the creamed spinach and feta. Tuck in the phyllo/yukfa and begin rolling up into a long tubular shape. Curl it into a coil/swirl shape and brush outer yufka with egg wash.
Bake in center of the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the dough is browned and crispy. Serve with a light side salad.
After dinner I decided to readup on Borek and all the varieties. Through Google images I came across Citra’s blog with a great recipe for Turkish Borek with leeks. It looks so good and that will be the next Borek I make. Here’s the link if you are interested.