Sigara Borek – Stuffed Pastries
Börek is one of THE great indulgences of Turkish cuisine – comforting and satisfying, the foody equivalent of putting on an old pair of jeans and settling down in an armchair with a glass of wine and a good book. Believe me, I’ve savoured, gobbled down, and relished kilos of all manner of börek over the 15 years I’ve been visiting Turkey.
You can find specialist börek cafes in every town, with great metal trays heaving under rectangular slabs of the stuff. Essentially it’s layer upon layer of filo pastry, filled with a range of delights – cheese, meat, spinach…some moist, some crispy, but there’s one börek that you usually won’t see in the börek cafes but that is served in almost all the restaurants in Turkey – Sigara Böreği . Small cyclindrical rolls of filo pastry (shaped like cigarettes), stuffed with white cheese and parsley, and served hot and crispy as a mouth-watering meze.
We often serve them on our gulet cruises in Turkey, and they are one of Rebecca’s (Peter’s daughter) favourites, as well as being much loved by our guests. They’re a super snack to kick off dinner, and they also make a wonderfully warm treat for breakfast. We also take them with us to enjoy as part of a picnic, perhaps on an ancient temple or on top of a Byzantine castle.
You can be as adventurous as you like with the fillings, but the traditional version is as follows:
Ingredients: Serves 4
2 sheets of filo pastry (known as yufka in Turkish)
250 ml oil (Olive or Sunflower) for frying (or you can bake them, in which case you will need 50 grams of butter)
200 grams of crumbled white cheese (Turkish white cheese, or feta cheese)
1 egg yolk
¼ bunch parsley
¼ bunch dill
Pinch of salt
Divide the filo pastry sheets into two semi circles, and then into four curved triangles. Cover any filo pastry you are not using with a towel to stop it drying out. Place the filling at the wide end, fold up the long sides to hold in the filling, then roll it up like a small cigar. Wet the pointed end with a wet (use water/milk/egg) pastry brush and stick it down.
Fry in hot oil until golden, making sure you turn the cigars frequently, and serve piping hot.
Alternatively, you can brush them with melted butter and bake in the oven on a greased baking sheet until they are golden and crisp. This should take approx 15 minutes at 200 degrees C.
Other fillings – stuff your Sigara Böreği however you like:
Sage with the cheese instead of dill and parsley
Savoury lamb/beef (even chicken) mince filling (preferably cooked with some onions, tomato puree and herbs),
Spinach and cheese,
Pine nuts make a crunchy and a tasty addition to any of the above.
The cook on our gulet, has also created a sweet version – chocolate Sigara Böreği. These disappear in no time at all, particularly on our family cruises, accompanied by loud exclamations of enjoyment. Simply swap the cheese and parsley for a good dollop of Nutella, and you’ll have a rocket filled gooey breakfast pastry, that will bring a smile to everyone’s lips.