Byrek

This is a great Ottoman-influenced savory pastry dish. It can be found as common street food in Turkey (böreği or börek), Greece (boureki), Bulgaria (byurek), Macedonia (burek) and Albania (byrek). It can also be found in the Middle East and varies a little between these countries, but byrek can be filled with anything like meat, potatoes, mushroom, cheese (feta), egg, spinach or any other vegetable. I hate making comparisons to instant foods, but Hot Pockets are pretty similar to byrek for their flaky crusts. But byrek is soooooo much tastier.

The dough, called phyllo or filo dough, can be made from scratch, but it must be very thin and takes a lot of time and attention, so I buy premade and frozen phyllo dough.

If are buying frozen phyllo dough and you can find it in squares or triangles, it will be much easier to manage, otherwise it will come in huge sheets or rounds and can be cut it to size. I find it easiest to cut it smaller with scissors before unwrapping it so it is more manageable. Since it is so thin, it tears easily, which isn’t terrible, but it might make your byrek more ‘leaky’. Some packages are frozen and have specific instructions for thawing (like putting in the fridge for 7 hours, then at room temperature for 2 hours before using) so read ahead of time!

As there are so many different fillings, I’ve included preparation for a few of my favorites below.

Phyllo dough:
-If your phyllo dough comes in large sheets or rounds, you can layer with the filling it in a pan (like lasagna)
-After each sheet, cover it with oil or butter
-Two pieces of dry phyllo dough should never touch. If they do, they will become hard when baked and won’t be flaky

-If you have small square or triangles or have cut or larger sheets into stripes, it will be made into a triangle or logs
-Place the filling at one end and fold into a triangle shape or roll into logs
-Each time a new section of dough is exposed, brush with oil or butter
-Two pieces of dry phyllo dough should never touch. If they do, they will become hard when baked and won’t be flaky

Fillings:
Meat Filling
Cook meat with onion and garlic, remove as much liquid as possible and use as filling.

Potato Filling
Boil potatoes, cut small or mash, add sauted onions and olive oil and use as filling.

Cheese Filling
Combine 4-6 eggs with 3 cups feta and 1 cup milk and use as filling.

Spinach Filling
Saute onions and garlic, then add fresh spinach, Cook until wilted and use as filling.

Byrek goes really well with Ayran, an easy-to-make salty yogurt drink

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