Legendary Dishes | Böregi (filled pastries)

The thin dough called yufka used to make filled pastries

Iftar and sahur, the pre and post fasting meals at Ramadan, were once symbolised by the pastries known as böregi because they offered sustaining and satisfying snacks at the appropriate moment.

The Turks in particular worry that their ancestral iconic snack food is a thing of the past, yet the prevalence of the börek across the ancient Ottoman lands, the Balkans and western Europe would seem to suggest that these pastries are still relevant.

Known as byrek in Albania, banica in Bulgaria, buréki in Greece and burek in Serbia, the Turkish böreği tradition epitomises the relationship people have with their produce and place. For example Turkish pastries include the following.

  • Paçanga Böreği (air-dried beef and cheese)
  • Hamsili Bôregi (Black Sea anchovy)
  • Patlicanli Böreği / Börek (aubergine)
  • Kiymali Börek (beef)
  • Gül Böreği (beef and cheese) 
  • Peynirli Börek (cheese)
  • Muska Böreği (cheese and spinach)
  • Sigara Böreği (cheese and parsley)
  • Su Böreği (cheese and parsley)
  • Pırasalı Alt Üst Böreği (leek)
  • Patatesli Börek (potato)
  • Ispanaklı Börek (spinach)
  • Kol Böreği (various)

The beef and onion pastry of Bosnia and Herzgovina is so popular it is made across the region despite indigenous versions like the half-moon beef and onion pastries of Anatolia. 

Böreği are fried and baked, known as tepsi böreği in Turkey, where the fillings include beef and onion, cheese and parsley and spinach and onion.

Generally böreği are made with yufka, the thin pastry dough, but they are also made with puff pastry and these are generally filled with beef and onions or with cheese and parsley.

In the coastal and central regions of Anatolia these pastries are also defined by the use of wild plants like baldiran (black lovage), gelincik (corn poppy), hardalotu (wild mustard), kazayağı (sicle weed), keçi körmeni (a type of wild garlic), kuşotu (chickweed), iğnelik (cranesbill) and yabani sarımsak (wild garlic) as fillings.

Yabani Yeşiller Böreği

wild greens pastries

  • 1 kg yufka
  • 500 g mixed greens (poppy, nettle, cress, wild garlic)
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 g white (feta) cheese, grated
  • 100 ml milk
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 60 g scallions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt, large pinch

Wash, pick over and chop greens, knead with a little salt. Chop onion and garlic fine, mix into the cheese. Combine the milk, egg and olive oil. Divide yufka into four pieces. On each piece, spread some of the oil-milk-egg mixture and a spoonful of the cheese-greens mixture. Roll up and place in a round baking pan, starting from the middle. When you have rolled all the pieces, drizzle the remaining oil-milk-egg mixture over the pastries and cook in a medium oven for 40 minutes.

Muska Böreği

triangle pastries with cheese and spinach

  • 20 sheets yufka dough
  • 500 g spinach, cooked, liquid squeezed out
  • 250 g white (feta) cheese, mashed with a fork
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp green peppercorns, ground
  • Water to seal the pastry

Preheat oven to 180ºC. In a large bowl combine cheese, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, two of the beaten eggs and spinach. In a separate bowl, mix remaining egg and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Grease a rectangular baking tray with a little olive oil.

Lay the pastry sheets on a clean surface and cut into 10 cm x 25 cm stripes. Lay two stripes of filo sheets at top of one another. Place 1 heaped tablespoon of the spinach mixture at one end of the pastry strip. Fold to form a triangle, fold over and continue until you are left with a triangular pastry, seal with water. Repeat with remaining pastry and filling. Put the pastries on the greased tray, brush the top of each one with the egg-oil mixture.

Bake for 25 minutes, until they are is golden brown. Preheat oven to 180ºC.