Savory pastries with exceptional flavoring make your holiday a pleasure, though these delightful Bourekas Stuffed with Cheese and Spinach are great anytime. Perfect for entertaining.
Bourekas are delicious hand-made pies from the Middle East. They’re baked, stuffed pastries likely originating with Bukharan Jews in the mountains of modern day Uzbekistan. Today, they’re popular throughout the Middle East. As one travels around the world, one finds variations of this recipe in almost every cuisine. Italian calzones, Indian samosas, Cornish pasties, German Jewish knishes and even the American apple turnover are all rooted in the Boureka.
When the Bukharans of central Asia moved to what is now the country of Turkey, they brought their stuffed burga dumplings with them. Centuries of travel along the Silk Road, and migration of Jews to distant lands brought the varied forms of the recipe to new homelands. In Turkey, Sephardic Jewish bakers developed the layered pastry we now think of as French – puff pastry. This too evolved into something called the börek.
As the Sepharic bakers supplied ships trading in Constantinople, the recipe spread through the Mediterranean region to Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Libya and even as far away as north-west Africa. In Spain, the recipe lost its puff-pastry and took on local bread-making techniques, becoming the empanada.
The orignal recipe, adapted through trade via the Silk Road throughout cultures both east and west, from Japan (gyoza) to America (turnovers). As Jewish traders settled in places like Poland, the cooking techniques changed or were adapted into the pierogi. Becoming popular in the Holy Land, knights of the Middle-Ages brought the recipes back with them to France and England, to Wales and Scotland.
Today, almost every culture has some form of boureka-like recipe in its national cuisine, whether stuffed with vegetables, cheeses, fruits, meats or combinations of these. A wide variety of savory and sweet fillings, including cheese, meat, apple, spinach, and eggplant are used. The pastry used depends largely upon where you are, but in this recipe, we’re making a simple dough. Phyllo, puff pastry, pizza dough and others are used to make Bourekas and their variations.
You’ll find they freeze pretty well and are great for parties, being simply reheated in the oven. They’re also great made as hors d’oeuvres – suited well to cocktail parties.
- 2 Cups flour
- 5 Tablespoons oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 3/4 Cups water
- 1 Cup butter
- 2 potatoes, boiled and peeled
- 1 egg
- 1/2 pound Cheddar cheese
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 pound spinach
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- lemon juice to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- 5 ounces sesame seeds
- Prepare dough by mixing flour, oil, lemon juice, water and salt. Sprinkle a handful of flour on a board and roll out the dough. Spread the butter over the dough. Fold dough into thirds. Refrigerate for half hour, and then roll dough out again. Fold in thirds and return to refrigerator. Repeat rolling, folding, and refrigerating 1 more time, then roll dough out into a large thin rectangle.
- For Cheese Stuffing, mash the potatoes, egg, grated cheese and butter. Mix well.
- For Spinach Stuffing, cook the spinach in the water that clings to its leaves garlic in the butter, then chop fine and add to spinach. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well.
- Cut the dough into 3-inch squares.
- Place 1 teaspoon cheese or spinach stuffing (or 1/2 teaspoon of each) on each square, fold dough in half to form a triangle, and pinch edges to seal well. Brush each filled square with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
- Bake in a preheated 350 F. (moderate) oven until golden, approximately 30 minutes.
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