Boreck(börek) ’بريك..Layers and layers of goodness.
Yemeni borek is a traditional meal that is served for guests or in weddings,or fancy feasts, it’s definitely not an everyday meal for its rich ingredients and longtime preparation.
The Borek word has no Arabic meaning. It is a Turkish word, which simply means “Layers”.
This meal is one of the Turkish influences on the Yemeni Kitchen. However, there are differences between the original Turkish borek and Yemeni borek in the stuffing, and the amount of layers. Traditionally, only rich families could afford it, since it is usually made of multiple of thin layers of dough, stuffed with several sources of proteins; ground beef, boiled eggs, cheese, and Parsley for taste. It is garnished with black seeds on top of it, and the filling is flavored with cinnamon powder for a final twist in your mouth.
Boreck layers needs a great attention during its creation. Each layer has to be very thin and soft, with minimal cuts or wholes. It requires a skill to open the dough with both of your hands and throw it left and right in a synchronized movement until it becomes thinner and bigger and more round until it ends safely on the dish. These layers are named “shanajat” in the Sanaani accent. Boreck is also a cousin recipe of the very famous Yemeni dish Bent-Alsahn (daughter of the dish) except that the second includes backing powder in its ingredients, has no filling ,and served with honey on top alone.
In my visit to Istanbul, I found many types of boreck some that is stuffed with cheese only, other with spinach and cheese or just beef; it was interesting to taste the different variations of it.
I was not able to taste one that exactly matched the one I know from Yemen. Probably my did her own combination of spices in the filling , and because she used Yemeni speciality smoked ghee.
The boreck layers in the Yemeni recipe varies between crispy to tender but the ones I tried in Istanbul where very soft ,and way lighter, more like a puff pastry . Perhaps everyone in modern kitchens are using the ready to use packets of puff pastry and the original dough recipe is rarely used anymore since no one has the time to do it from scratch anymore.
The dough recipe I have here is actually for the Boreck, and its an original one from my mom. What I like about it is that its easy and simple, if you have a dough maker machine you will get better results. I used my hands in kneading couple of times and it worked just fine, so I encourage you to use whichever you want for Kneading.
1 large egg at room temperature
¼ cup of milk powder
3 cups of white flour
Pinch of salt
1 table-spoon of cooking oil
Water as needed (1/2 cup)
In 1 cup mix 2 table spoons of butter with 2 table spoons of ghee
(you can exchange the ghee for canola oil for a lighter dish).
The filling :
2 hard-boiled eggs
½ pound of ground beef (fully sautéed with garlic+ onions + cilantro, spiced, and drained from liquid)
½ cup of chopped parsley
½ cup of crumbled feta cheese.
In a deep dish Mix the flour with milk powder and salt
Break the egg in a separate dish and start whisking it until smooth
Make a whole in the mix and put the egg.
Add the oil and then the water very slowly until the dough starts to shape up.
Watch out from putting more water; keep kneading for 10-15 mints until it makes a nice, soft dough.
I usually know that the dough is perfect when nothing is sticking in the dish and all the ingredients are bonded to each other very well.
Now put the dough to rest for 10 minutes and cover it with plastic cover.
Later cut the dough for 12-15 equal small pieces.
With your fingers press on the dough softly.
Prepare the dish that will go to the oven by drizzling some of the butter/ghee mixture and make sure all sides of the dish are rubbed with oil.
Now open up the dough , if you are still an amateur in opening dough to thin layers start rolling them just like pizza , then when it’s around 7”-9 “ inches in diameter you can start opening them . Focus your hands to be synchronized in their movement while pulling the edges of the dough out to become bigger and thinner.
Now put the thin dough on the prepared dish, stick its edges to the dish .Drizzle the oil again and through some black seeds(if desired) on the first layer. Move the dish right and left to make sure the oil drops are moving around evenly on your layer. Repeat this process for the next layers.
After repeating this process, you can start putting the filling.
First, drizzle the Cinnamon powder on the layer.
Second, put the ground beef, followed with Parsley, cheese and the chopped boiled eggs.
I tried putting the stuffing once all together on the dish at the same time, just to save some time, but I didn’t like how it looked in between the layers( presentation wise ) when I started cutting them.
So make sure, you take your time and put them one by one, especially if you are having guests, since you already spent so much time working on those layers, might be worth being patient on this little detail as well.
Drizzle with Butter again one final time and put some black seeds for garnish, yes , it’s a very rich dish, but its taste is worth the calories!.
Later start cutting them into triangles, just like pizza, and let it settle down for 15-20 minutes while waiting for the oven to get hot at 350 f.
Put into the oven for 35 minutes or until its golden brown, remove and serve immediately.