I adore Turkish and Turkish-inspired food. A friend and outstanding cook introduced me to a bunch of dishes which have now gone with her and her suitcases back to Istanbul. In her absence, I am now endeavouring to recreate these fantastic dishes one by one. It is a way to enjoy delectable food but, more importantly, it is a way of reviving the memory of someone who is greatly missed. As is so often the case with food, it is inextricable from the people, sounds and scenes that are associated with it. When I cook Öykü’s food, the fragrances rising from the stove bring back the sound of joyful Turkish music and Öykü’s bouncy, contagious laugh. Hopefully I will soon be cooking alongside Öykü again, in Istanbul – I’m saving up for that plane ticket!
Meanwhile, the Böreks – a savoury pastry with a meat- or vegetable-based filling which comes in all sorts of varieties. This feta and herb version championed by Öykü is both seductively simple, healthy and unbelievably tasty – a prime example of Turkish cuisine. Authentic Böreks are made with a unique type of pastry sold from special ‘dough-shops’ in Turkey – difficult, if not impossible, to get hold of in the UK. The next-best thing, I’m told, is to use filo pastry, although you could also use puff pastry. It really comes down to your mood and preferences. Filo pastry makes a very light, snack-ish Börek whereas a puff pastry Börek is more substantial. With filo pastry you have to work quickly, because there is a risk of the pastry drying out. But you must also work gently, as the sheets are very fragile and will easily tear. To prevent any sort of pastry disaster I used double sheets of filo – this way, if there is a tear, the protection of an extra layer prevents the filling from spilling.
Notwithstanding the ominous warnings online concerning filo (enough to put anyone off a filo project!), with double sheets and lack of perfectionism these Böreks actually turned out well and weren’t much of a hassle at all. With the ingredients to hand, it’s the kind of thing you can whip up for a teatime snack in half an hour. Wash it down with a cup of potent muddy Turkish coffee and you’re transported to warmer climates…
Makes 12 böreks:
6 filo pastry sheets
200 g feta cheese
1 tbsp dill, chopped finely
2 tbsp parsley, chopped finely
pepper, freshly ground
1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon olive oil, for glazing
nigella seeds, to sprinkle
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Remove filo pastry from the fridge and bring to room temperature.
2. Prepare the filling: Combine feta, herbs and pepper in a bowl and smash the feta with the back of a fork.
3. Arrange a double sheet of filo pastry on baking parchment. Cut into four squares. Spoon a tablespoon of filling in the center of each square, then wet the edges of the pastry with water and quickly fold into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining pastry sheets.
4. Brush with glaze and sprinkle with nigella seeds.
5. Bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.