Börek with spiced beef and pistachios

A delicious take on a Turkish classic börek shape.
Vidar Bergum

Crispy pastry, beef and lots of aromatic spices. What’s not to like? Here’s a new take on the Turkish cigar börek, or börek roll, if you like, stuffed with a deliciously spiced minced beef stuffing.

It’s hard to know where to start with börek. Shapes, textures and fillings can all be varied according to taste. The varieties are nearly endless.

What is börek?

Börek is a generic term for savoury pastry made from wrapping thin loaves known as yufka or filo pastry with a filling and then cooking it. It’s thought to hail from Anatolia in today’s central Turkey.

It spread considerably during Ottoman times and today it’s a traditional food way beyond the central Anatolian region.

Baked borek in roasting tin, seen from above

When Turkish friends learn I make börek regularly, the reaction is almost always the same. Really?!

Of course, what they have in mind is the traditional börek, the one their grandmother makes with pastry that she’s spent hours rolling out to a perfect thinness.

However, like most Turks today, I don’t make my own pastry. I buy freshly made yufka, the large, circular and slightly thicker version Turks use for börek, at my weekly market. With this, I usually make Turkish tray börek with cheese, an everyday staple that should be in everyone’s repertoire.

Or, as in this recipe, I buy ready-made filo pastry of the sort you can also use to make baklava.

How to make a flaky cigar shaped börek

This version yields a flaky börek, almost like a thinner (and more delicious) version of puff pastry. It goes incredibly well with a spiced meat filling with lots of flavour.

Spiced beef in black frying pan, seen from eye level

Here, I’ve used almost the whole repertoire of Middle Eastern spices to give an aromatic flavour to the meat. I’ve also chucked in a dried apricot, to balance the spices with a little sweetness, and roughly chopped pistachios, for a luxurious crunch.

There are a few steps involved in preparing the filling and shaping the börek, but it’s all very easy. And very quick once you get the hang of it.

This börek works a treat both for lunch and dinner. As virtually all böreks it’s also perfect for bringing along when you need something on-the-go. Serve with a salad or two on the side, if you like.

The recipe yields around 12 börek rolls serving 2-4, depending on what else is on offer.

Closeup of opened spiced beef borek on a wooden board, seen from the side

Börek with spiced beef and pistachios

Yield: 12 börek rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml yoghurt
  • 100 ml whole milk
  • c. 12 sheets of filo pastry (c. 225 g)
  • nigella seeds and/or sesame seeds, to sprinkle on top

Filling

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 300 g minced beef (or lamb)
  • 30 g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 10 g (i.e. one) dried apricot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Turkish red pepper flakes (pul biber)
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (without thick stalks)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (355 F).
  2. Fry the onion in the olive oil over a medium heat, stirring regularly, until slightly coloured but not burnt, 10-15 minutes.
  3. Increase the heat and add the meat, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. When the meat is cooked through, mix in pistachios, apricot and spices. Fry for another couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Season. Take off the heat and mix in the parsley and butter.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the egg and olive oil. When blended, whisk in the yoghurt, then finally the milk.
  5. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  6. Take out the filo pastry and cover with a damp cloth. Filo pastry dries out very quickly, so don’t skip this step.
  7. Take two sheets of pastry, making sure they are exactly on top of each other. My sheets are roughly 38×32 cm. Cut the sheets in half length-wise. That’ll leave you two double sheets of roughly 38×16 cm. Spread around 1 tbsp of the egg mixture on each, making sure the pastry is thoroughly moist on top, but not so much it’s wet all the way through. Add a tbsp or so of the filling at the short end furthest away from you. Roll it up until the filling is covered. Fold in the sides and continue rolling until you reach the end. Place on the baking parchment, seam side down. See pictures below for the whole process. Repeat until you have run out of filling.
  8. Brush the börek rolls with the egg mixture. There will probably be too much of the mixture. Only apply enough to make sure the böreks are nicely moistened but not oversaturated. Sprinkle over a few nigella seeds or sesame seeds.
  9. Roast until nicely golden, 30-40 minutes. Leave for a few minutes before serving. Börek reheats well, for example in a dry pan over low heat.
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13 Responses

  1. Have just made these this morning, but just with the mince and managed to find some yufka locally 😀 Absolutely yummy, my daughter was so pleased as it’s her favourite when we go to Turkey. I’ll be experimenting with other fillings next time. Thanks for all your lovely recipes, they are great and so easy to follow!

    1. You could use a meat substitute, but I don’t think omitting it altogether will work, unfortunately. Another option would be a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms and cooked brown lentils, fried in oil until it has much the same texture as meat. Good luck!

    1. Thanks for letting me know! They’re showing up on mine, but I think I know what the issue is, so I’ll make sure to look into it shortly. Thanks again for letting me know!

  2. This sounds delicious and I’m about to make them but can I ask, what would you serve with this to make it a meal? Or is it more of a snack thing? I must admit I don’t really know Turkish food but it sounds delicious so I’m excited to try, just not sure what to pair it with

  3. Can you convert 100ml to ounces for me!! Would love to make this as I have made other recipes of yours, and they have been outstanding!,

    1. Thank you! I’m afraid I can’t convert all the measurements, please use Google. Searching for “100 ml in ounces” usually gives the answer straight away 🙂 And apologies for the late response, this blog has been dormant for a few months.

  4. I’ve lived in many parts of Turkey over 7 years. While there l fell in love with the food. Can you tell me the name of the dish made with soft noodles and a cheesy, creamy filling? I used to buy it in a little shop in Sinop on the Black Sea coast. l enjoy your recipies immensely. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Constance,
      Turkish cuisine is incredibly rich and varied, and I’m afraid I don’t know the name of this particular dish. The noodles are probably eriste, hand cut egg pasta. They use a lot of dairy in the Black Sea, so the filling may be a variation on muhlama – a sort of fondue made with butter, (corn) flour and cheese.

  5. I saw your recipe on Foodgawker last week and it’s been on my mind every day since. I just bought the ingredients today and I made it tonight. I just made the filling and served it over hummus (I’m allergic to wheat) and it was OUTRAGEOUSLY GOOD!

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. It will definitely become a regular around here.

    1. Thank you for your wonderful feedback. Very happy to hear it’s become one of your regulars!

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

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