So, I went to my local Turkish shop in Hoxton Street and bought some yufka and I have to say, it is not a patch on the one I had in my freezer which a friend had brought me from Gaziantep. What was interesting though is that even though the commercial yufka felt dry and coarse when I was working with it, it was absolutely fine to eat. Obviously not as good as the hand-made one but not a lot worse. In fact, both were pretty delicious with the commercial yufka being more crisp than the artisanal one. This said, I will be going back to using filo for my savoury pastries because I prefer the thinner, finer pastry. It is easier to make good shapes with it and if you buy Turkish filo (which is also called yufka but they use the thin sheets for sweets), it is even thinner than the Greek and way better than any supermarket brand.
I made two different fillings to try out the two yufkas: an aubergines one and a meat, pine nut and sultana filling. Both are fairly quick to prepare with most of the work taken up with filling and shaping the pastries. The one nice thing about using yufka is that it dries less quickly than filo but because it is thicker, as you can see from the pictures below, it is also more difficult to shape nicely. I tried different shapes to see which would work best but none did really, and the crinkly one was because the pastry got a little damp in the freezer. I guess I didn’t wrap it well enough!
As for the fillings, I was lucky to find really good aubergines even though it is no longer the season, not that anyone thinks of season these days when using aubergines. And I used romano instead of regular bell peppers. The flesh is less watery and the taste more intense.
I diced the peppers quite small and the aubergines medium small and put both in a frying pan with a little olive oil and cooked them for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Once the aubergines had softened a little, I added chopped canned tomatoes and Aleppo pepper. If you like your filling spicy, use regular dried chili flakes. By the way this is the last time I use canned tomatoes. I recently read that the resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to various ailments. I let the aubergines cook in the tomato sauce until completely done then added the herbs — you can also use this filling as a topping for pide.
Then came the time to put the yufkas to the test. Here is what the one from Gaziantep looks like. As you can see it is quite soft and malleable and thicker than filo.
And here is what the commercial yufka looks like. You can buy it in large circles or pre-cut in triangles to shape cigara boreks.
The meat stuffing on the triangular sheet of yufka is interesting because it combines spicy (fresh chilli) and sweet (sultanas and allspice). Again, it is simple to make. First you sauté chopped onions, pine nuts and cumin seeds until the onion caramelise and the pine nuts brown a little.
Then you add the minced meat and chopped peppers and cook the meat until it loses all traces of pink, mashing it as you stir it to break up the lumps.
Once the meat is cooked, you add the sultanas, tomatoes, herbs and seasonings. This time I used passata as I had used up my last ever can of tomatoes. I will miss the canned cherry tomatoes which I loved using in tomato sauces. Still, health before anything else!
Turkish Meat Böreks
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 red romano pepper, trimmed and diced into small squares
1/2 fresh red chili pepper, trimmed and finely chopped (scant 1 tablespoon)
1/2 pound lamb from the shoulder, trimmed of skin and fat and minced
200 g passata (or fresh tomatoes, diced small)
1 1/2 tablespoons sultanas
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 pack triangular yufka
125 g unsalted butter, melted
Put the oil in a large frying pan and place over a medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds, onion and pine nuts and cook, stirring regularly, until lightly golden. Stir in the garlic.
Add the peppers and meat and stir — press on the meat with the back of the spoon to break up any lumps — until the meat is no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, sultanas, herbs and allspice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is evaporated. Let cool.
Preheat the oven to 200º C.
Lay one yufka sheet on your work surface with the pointed end away from you. Brush with melted butter. Place 3 teaspoons filling in a thin line across the end nearest to you, leaving 1.5 cm free at the edges and from the top. Carefully fold the filo over the filling and roll, brushing with melted butter every two or three folds, to make a cigar. Place on a non-stick baking sheet. Make the cigara boreks in the same way and transfer to the baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown all over. Serve hot or warm.
Aubergines and tomato filling
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle over the pizzas
1 medium aubergine (about 250 g), diced into small cubes
1/2 red bell pepper, trimmed and finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
400 g tomato passata
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
few sprigs flat-leaf parsley, most of the stalk discarded, finely chopped
few sprigs fresh coriander, most of the stalk discarded, finely chopped
few basil leaves for garnish
Put the olive oil, aubergine and pepper in a saucepan and place over a low heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the garlic, tomatoes and chilli pepper and cook, covered, for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are done and the sauce is very reduced.
Add the herbs and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes or so, until there is no excess liquid in the pan. Take off the heat. Cover with a kitchen towel and let cool. Use like the meat filling to make cigara boreks or if you are using filo, to make rectangular parcels.
©anissa helou, from Modern Mezze