Gower spiced lamb börek with pine nuts and sultanas

Seasonal recipe with Private Chef Christos

It’s hard to know where to start with börek. Shapes, textures and fillings can vary according to taste, and the varieties are nearly endless.

Börek is a common term for a savoury pastry made from wrapping thin loaves known as yufka or filo pastry with a filling and then cooking it. They can be found in not one but a swathe of countries, spanning the Balkans and Eastern Europe, Greece and Turkey, all the way to Armenia and North Africa. This deliciously flaky, baked pastry comes stuffed with different fillings. It might be meat, vegetables, potato, cheese or anything else you wish. The shape also varies depending where it’s made. Sometimes they are flat, sometimes a log shape and other times resemble a pie. The filling for this one is spiced Gower lamb. It’s a mince filling flavoured with a mix of gentle Mediterranean spices and studded with juicy sultanas for a sweet touch as well as pine nuts for a little nutty crunch.

For the Lamb Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 pounds ground local lamb
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sultanas
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 250gr passata sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • Pack of yufka pastry or filo if you prefer (I use yufka pastry, you can get it at specialised Turkish or Middle East delis)

Make the lamb filling 

Toast the pine nuts in a pan (no oil needed) over medium heat until lightly golden. When ready, immediately remove the pine nuts from the pan and set aside. Cook onion and garlic: Heat oil on high in a large skillet. Cook onion and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes until softened. Cook lamb and spices: Add lamb, breaking it up as you go, until mostly changes from pink to brown, then add all the spices and cook for 1 minute. Simmer: Add tomato passata and water, mix. Then add sultanas and pine nuts. Bring to simmer, turn heat down to medium low and cook until liquid reduces so the mixture is moist but not watery. Cool: remove from stove and allow to fully cool before using.

Yogurt wash

  • 3 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Make the yogurt wash 

Mix ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside for at least 20 minutes. It will look a bit curdled and congealed, that’s normal. If it becomes too thick and cold, warm to loosen. Ensure it is cold when you use – if hot, it will make the filo soggy.

Yogurt Sauce

  • 200gr natural yogurt (I use Greek yogurt)
  • ½ tsp garlic minced
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Make the Yogurt sauce

Mix ingredients in a small bowl. Set inside the fridge until you need it.

Shaping the börek (see pics above)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Brush a baking sheet with some sunflower oil or butter if you prefer. Place 1 sheets of yufka pastry on your work surface. Keep remaining sheets covered with a damp towel. Sprinkle some yogurt wash lightly on top and spread using a pastry brush. Layer on 1 more sheet, brushing some more yogurt wash over. Place 2 tbsp of the lamb filling along the bottom edge. Using the aid of a long kitchen knife to get it started, then roll up tightly into a log, tucking in the edges after the first turn. Doesn’t need to be very tight and don’t try, as the pastry is delicate. Brush the top with butter, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 40 minutes or until pastry is golden. To serve, remove from oven. Cut wedges like pie. Serve with Lemon Yoghurt Sauce.

Tips for filo/yufka pastry

Filo pastry is very delicate and dries out easily. Fridge (i.e. fresh) filo pastry is easier to handle – It’s more pliable than frozen-then-thawed, so you don’t need to be as careful handling it. If using frozen filo pastry – thaw overnight in the fridge. Never try to speed up thawing by placing in a warm environment. It dries the pastry out and makes it brittle so it tends to shatter; Take it out of the fridge 30 minutes beforehand – whether using frozen thawed or fresh. Bringing it to room temperature makes it more pliable and therefore easier to handle. Keep the pastry covered with a slightly damp tea towel to ensure it doesn’t dry out.

 

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