The origin of börek is uncertain but here’s an undisputed fact: I am unable to walk past the Turkish food centre in Camberwell without going inside, buying a dirty little spinach and cheese börek and stuffing it into my face so fast all that can be seen to the keenest of peepers is my greasy hands and lots of little flakes of pastry, gently floating to the ground.
I call those börek dirty because they really are the scrag end of the spectrum. You can taste the margarine. I mean, I’m still going to eat them but you get what I’m saying. They are made in a factory (I’m guessing) with less than excellent ingredients and I’m ok with that.
When I was asked to write a börek recipe for Great British Chefs, however, I saw it as my chance to make amends with the world of Turkish pastries and I think I’ve done that rather nicely. Say so myself. Cavolo nero is a brilliant substitute for spinach with its iron-rich flavour and in fact, I think it’s a better choice, particularly now it’s cold and ‘orrible and we need fortifying in every way possible. A woman cannot live on Chocolate Orange alone.
Cavolo Nero and Feta Cheese Börek Recipe
This recipe first appeared on Great British Chefs
300g cavolo nero, (weight with stalks, which yielded 150g without stalks)
8 sheets yufka pastry, or filo pastry
200g feta, or Sütdiyarı Picnic Börek Cheese if you can find it (or another white Turkish cheese)
100g butter, melted
1 egg, and 1 egg yolk, beaten lightly with a fork
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
Strip the cavolo nero leaves from the stalks (the stalks can be saved for other dishes, and are particularly good finely chopped and added to fried rice), blanch them for 1 minute in boiling water, then drain.
Dry the leaves thoroughly by pressing them between two clean tea towels and placing something heavy (like a wooden chopping board) on top for a few minutes. Chop the leaves finely and mix with the cheese and a small pinch of salt (if using feta, skip the salt).
Take a sheet of yufka, place on a clean work surface and brush with melted butter. Lay another on top. Then, on one side of the pastry, brush a little more melted butter and lay a fresh sheet of yufka on top, so that it overlaps slightly with the two sheets already there (the idea is to make one long strip of yufka). In the end you will have four pieces of double layered yufka, overlapping in a line.
On the bottom edge of the yufka, begin to lay out your filling in a long snake, continuing right to the other end of the pastry.
Then, carefully roll the pastry up and around the filling until you have one long snake of pastry filled with the cavolo nero and cheese. The snake can then be curled around and placed on a baking tray. Don’t worry if your tin isn’t the right size or shape.
Brush the borek with the egg and cook for 25–30 minutes or until golden brown.