You know how much of a sucker I am for any food that's even remotely arabic. I mean, come on, how could you go wrong with a cuisine which can use so few ingredients, often the same ones again and again, to achieve such a bountiful display of flavour and general awesomeness? If you're in any way as big a fan as I am then I have a feeling you'll enjoy this vegan spinach börek recipe.
A term to cover multiple definitions
The concept of börek is more a method than a dish in itself as there are tens of ways you can prepare these pastries. Originally Turkish, it's a dish now popular all over the Middle East and also in Eastern Europe. The most basic components of börek are simple: pastry, filled and baked or fried. Wrapped, rolled, or layered, this classic concept covers a broad range of recipes. The recipe below is based on the idea of sigara börek, or cigar filo pastries.
This doesn't have to be a precise recipe. Use chard (silverbeet) if you want, or vary the quantities. Add nuts or TVP. Go crazy! Culinary crazy, not tinfoil hat crazy; ice-cream and string do not make good börek filling.
These spinach cigar börek pastries are meant as a main meal, so they're bulky and dinner plate friendly. If you're looking for a party treat, use more pastry (in smaller pieces) and less spinach to create smaller cigars. The bonus of serving these as a main meal is there's no harm done if they explode a bit and the spinach oozes out of the filo.
If you want to bulk the meal up a bit, serve the sigara börek on a bed of steamed couscous or a freshly made toubouleh salad.
Vegan Spinach Börek Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 2oo° C (400° F) and lightly grease a baking sheet.
- Make the yoghurt sauce first by pounding, in a pestle and mortar, around 2 tsp of lemon juice with about 1 clove worth of garlic into a paste (if the taste of raw garlic is too much for you, feel free to fry it a little first). Add the yoghurt, plus salt to taste, and stir to combine well. Set aside.
- Steam the spinach by placing it in a large stockpot with a tablespoon of water. Cover and cook over medium heat until the leaves are wilted. Stir it every minute or so to expose all leaves to the water. Drain and press out as much of the excess water as possible. Place in a large bowl.
- Fry the onion over medium heat for two or 3 minutes in the ½ tbsp olive oil, until soft. Add the rest of the garlic and cook a further 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant but not burnt. Remove from the heat and place the onion mix in the bowl with the spinach.
- Add around ½ tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice and ¼ a teaspoon or so of zest. Also toss in the vegan cheese, pomegranate molasses, nutmeg, paprika, allspice, salt, and corn flour. Mix well.
- Melt the vegan butter and have ready. Place 4 sheets of filo pastry on your counter surface and cut across the middle of the shortest length, leaving you with 8 even sized sheets of pastry. Place one stack on top of the other to begin the process of rolling the cigar pastries.
- To make the roll, brush the pastry liberally with the melted butter and place two or 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling along one of the edges. Roll once or twice, fold in the sides, and continue to roll all the way up. Place on the baking tray and continue the process until all of the pastry has been used. Brush the filo cigars with the remaining butter/oil.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastries are lightly browned and crispy. Serve with some of the yoghurt sauce poured over and garnished with za'atar seasoning, if desired.