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Sigara böreği: Turkish cigar-shaped snacks

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I didn't get the chance to try cigarette börek or sigara böreği in Istanbul. This pastry, shaped like a Turkish cigar, is made with a phyllo-like flaky dough called yufka and filled with ingredients like feta, parsley and sometimes potato or meat.
I saw other kinds of börek though – made in the larger pie-like shape and snail shell, but not the cigars.
Yufka pastry apparently comes in various thicknesses. The thicker ones are eaten like flatbread and used for wrapping meats and to scoop up dips (like the one in the picture below). The thinner ones are used for pastries like the börek. A lot of recipes say to use phyllo pastry if yufka is not available. Phyllo is thinner though, so about three leaves need to be layered together.
A thicker version of yufka is the flatbread seen in the background. Chicken doner with rice and (inset) pickled chillies. 
I decided to make my own pastry, based on the type you might use for a strudel. The dough is elastic so it can be stretched until quite thin. I've used this recipe for a strudel before, but this time, I left out the egg yolk.
The filling is a mixture of mashed potato, shredded cheddar, a Turkish hard cheese and snipped spring onions (green onions). I don't know what the Turkish cheese is called; it has the crumbly texture of parmigiano-reggiano and tastes like a sharp blue cheese – very sharp, in fact, which I only realised after the börek were cooked. 
I bought the cheese at a grocery shop in the northwest quarter of Istanbul where hardly any English is spoken, but it's where the locals shop. One of the delightful shopkeepers saw me looking at this variety and cut off a piece for me to taste. I liked it and chose a chunk that was already portioned. He weighed it and it cost 11 Turkish lira (about RM17.50), which is a really good price for organic, unprocessed cheese.
Turkish spice mix
The filling is seasoned with a spice mix that I got in Kadıköy, a town on the Asian side of Istanbul. This is one of the residential areas of the city but again, not much English is spoken. There are some shops catering to tourists but the prices are not inflated because it's also where the locals shop. 
According to the tube, the mix has eight type of spices. The names are all in Turkish, though, so I had to do some Googling to find out the English names. Except for one spice (poy), I found out (if I've correctly identified them) that the others are mint (nane), fenugreek (çemek), white pepper (toz biber), Greek oregano or wild thyme (kekik), sumak (no English name), coriander (kişniş) and red pepper flakes (pul biber). 
Make the sigara böreği in advance and store in the fridge or freezer.  
My börek are fried, but they can also be baked. I'm hopeless at frying but since I made only six this time, this was quicker and I got to eat them sooner!

Cigarette Börek (Sigara Böreği)
Makes 6

95g bread flour
Pinch of salt
50ml water, plus extra if needed
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing and frying
½ tsp apple cider vinegar
Filling*, about 1¼ cups

Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Combine the liquids and add to the bowl. Bring everything together to form a soft dough, adding more water if necessary. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Divide dough into six equal balls. Roll out the dough into an elongated oval until very thin. Then, using the back of your fists, slowly stretch out the oval into a rough triangle until you can see through it (a few small holes are okay).
Brush the surface with oil. Place a row of filling at the wider end, fold in the lower points of the triangle and roll up towards the upper point. Make the rest of the börek.
At this stage, the börek can be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Heat up a large frying pan and add about 2 tbsp of oil. Fry the börek until brown on all sides. Serve with a dip.
* The filling is a mixture of mashed potato, shredded cheddar, a Turkish hard cheese and snipped spring onions (green onions), and seasoned with a Turkish spice mix. 

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