Borek- Turkish Beef Rolls
February 25, 2019 by Nicole Collins
Isn’t it funny how sometimes one recipe can have a gazillion different interpretations?
I guess if you think about it, all recipes are really just personal interpretations of a combination of ingredients. Every person who creates a recipe has different taste buds, different ideas, and different execution strategies. It’s pretty cool how food can spark such creativity and individuality!
Today’s recipe has me thinking about the language of food because of its origin.
When I was in high school, I took an elective that was an international cooking class. One of our early assignments was bringing in a recipe of international cuisine and demonstrating the preparation for the class. Having a Turkish bestie, I knew that I wanted to go to her family for a recipe.
I’ve been exposed to A LOT of amazing Turkish food over the years through family parties and such; but early on, my favorite Turkish dish was borek. And, that’s the recipe that I asked Sultan’s auntie to give me. But, her family was not one to follow recipes. Most of the food they make is family taught knowledge combined with instinct, so her aunt did the best she could trying to adapt the recipe for me.
There are lots of different ways to make borek. There’s borek filled with cheese. There’s borek filled with cheese and spinach. There’s borek filled with meat. There’s cigarette (or cigara) borek which is a skinny rolled stuffed pastry. There are different ways to make the shell. There are soooo many different versions of borek, and I love every one I’ve ever tried!
So, if you haven’t figured out what we’re making today by now; today, we’re making Borek!
I’d call this the Americanized version of Borek thanks to Selver. We’re making the Turkish beef roll version today. I’ve made this recipe a thousand times over the years; and as I’ve learned more about cooking, I’ve tweaked the original measurements she gave me a tad to make a little more sense. But, the taste is still the same!
We’re going to start by making a simple filling of ground beef, onions, salt, pepper, and tomato paste. That mix may sound really basic, but the tomato paste really adds a layer of flavor that you don’t expect. If makes the filling nice and rich and ready to stuff in our shell.
For the shell, we’re going to use flour tortillas painted with a mix of plain yogurt and egg yolk. I’m sure that sounds weird, but that’s the way Selver taught me. The yogurt/egg mixture gets generously spread on both sides of a flour tortilla, then stuffed with our beef filling, and rolled like a burrito. Then, we brush a little extra yogurt mix on top, sprinkle on some sesame seeds, and toss them in the oven.
I find that using my hands to spread the yogurt mix over the tortilla is the best way to make sure it gets a nice coating. You could use a pastry brush if you want to stay clean, but your hands are your best kitchen tool sometimes! I’ve also made these with plain regular yogurt and plain Greek yogurt, and both taste the same. So, use your favorite or whatever you have. Either way, the yogurt mix on the tortilla helps it get nice and brown and crispy on the bottom; and we all know color = flavor.
My favorite thing about these beef rolls is that the ingredients are so humble, but the flavors are so delicious. Every day pantry staples can transport us across the world with Turkish comfort food. My mom and brother even like these, and their pallets are pretty simple.
These rolls are delicious on their own, of course. But sometimes, I like to dip them in sour cream or plain Greek yogurt mixed with some fresh garlic. The cool, tangy sauce cuts some of the richness of the beefy tortilla. Plus, I’ve always loved warm foods with cool dips.
If you’ve ever made or had borek a different way, I’d love to hear about it! I think I’ve had enough Turkish food to qualify as partially Turkish now.
Alright guys, enjoy! And, let’s eat!
Borek- Turkish Beef Rolls
Serves: 6 Print
6 8-inch flour tortillas
½ cup plain yogurt (or plain greek yogurt)
1 egg yolk
½ tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 ½ tbsp tomato paste
black and white sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, and saute for about 5 mins until they start to soften. Add ground beef, salt, and pepper; and cook until beef is no longer pink, about 10 mins. Drain any excess liquid from the skillet. Place back on heat, and add tomato paste. Stir well until paste is completely melted, and cook for and additional 2-3 mins. Remove from heat, and set aside.
In a small bowl stir yogurt and egg yolk until well combined. Take a tortilla, and brush a generous amount of the yogurt mixture on both sides of the tortilla. Place about 1/2- 2/3 cup filling in the center of the tortilla, and roll like a burrito by folding the bottom over the filling, folding in the sides, and finishing rolling to close. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
Brush the tops of the beef rolls again with yogurt mixture. Sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds, as desired. Bake for 18-20 mins until golden brown. Serve!
*This is one of those cases where your best kitchen tool is your hands. I like to cover my work surface with aluminum foil (for easy clean up), and then I use my hands to apply the yogurt mix to both sides of the tortilla. This lets you get a nice, thick coating of yogurt on the shells, which is what we want.
*Sometimes, I like to serve these with sour cream, more plain greek yogurt, or plain greek yogurt mixed with a touch of fresh garlic on the side.
*I've made these using plain yogurt and plain greek yogurt. They taste the same once they're baked, so use whatever you like or have.
*If these start to get too dark too quickly, tent them with aluminum foil to protect the tops, and continue baking as directed. The nose knows. You'll be able to smell if they're browning too quickly.