The Mediterranean area, encompassing Israel and nearby Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, offers great cultural diversity and an abundance of freshly grown fruits and vegetables, much like the area of Santa Barbara.
These handmade meat-filled phyllo rolls served with yogurt are a traditional street food in many Middle Eastern neighborhoods. Borekas are typically made with a rich puff pastry, filled with potatoes, cheese, or meat. This lamb-filled variation has been “reinvented” and lightened up using phyllo pastry, slightly sweetened with spices and currants, and baked rather than fried.
I have a strong connection to Israel, the people, the land, and especially the cuisine, and the Middle Eastern style of cooking is very close to my heart. Middle Eastern dishes can simply be foods that you buy on the street for a late-night snack and other foods that are easy to make at home with the right ingredients. These recipes are my invitation to try these delicious foods bursting with flavor. First watch the video and then you will find below the recipe and directions to make these borekas and the lemon labneh.
- 1 packet phyllo pastry (about 12 sheets) thawed
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground lamb or beef or a mix of both
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup ¼ cup dried currants
- 1 teaspoon Sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- ½ cup pistachio or almonds, toasted
- 1 cup good quality olive oil for brushing the phyllo
- 1 cup plain Greek style yogurt
- In a medium sauté pan, cook the onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Add the ground meat, and stir fry until cooked through, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon to keep it minced. Remove to a medium bowl and stir in the spices, a generous sprinkling of salt, pepper, and chopped parsley. Allow to cool.
- Toast the nuts while the meat filling is cooling and set aside.
- Open the packet of phyllo, carefully take out and unroll 12 sheets. Cover them with a dry tea towel and top with a damp tea towel. Keep the phyllo covered as you work, to stop it from becoming dry and brittle. Roll up any unused pastry and return to the fridge.
- Lay one sheet of phyllo lengthwise in front of you on a dry work surface. Brush about a tablespoon of olive oil all over the phyllo with a pastry brush.
- Working quickly, add a few spoonfuls of the filling in the center of the bottom quarter of the sheet and spread the filling out 6 inches along the length of the dough. Fold in each side of the dough to cover the filling, brush with a bit more olive oil and roll up from the bottom forming a cigar-filled shape. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Fill the remaining phyllo sheets, and line them up on a lightly oiled baking tray an inch apart from each other.
- Bake the borekas for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and carefully arrange on your serving platter with the toasted nuts and a dollop of yogurt to dip into.
- 1 quart Greek nonfat yogurt
- Line a colander with clean cheesecloth or a double layer of paper towels. Scoop your 1-quart container of Greek yogurt onto the cloth and fold the cloth over the yogurt to cover.
- Place the colander in a large bowl to catch the whey with a small saucer underneath, so the bottom of the colander is slightly lifted and not sitting in the liquid. Allow to drain in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, transfer the labneh to a lidded glass container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Save the liquid whey in a separate glass container for other uses.
- Now that you have this simple base, you can flavor the labneh with preserved lemon purée and generously season with salt and pepper, or flavor it with fresh herbs and spices, depending on the dish you are making. A Sweet version can be made by adding honey, or agave, and we love eating it with fresh fruit, chopped nuts and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh herbs, chopped garlic, and use as a dip for pita.
- Stir in minced crunchy vegetables like cucumber, green onions, and radish and use as a dip for celery or carrots.
- Spread onto bagels, toasted bread, or flatbread as the base for an open-faced sandwich in place of cream cheese for a nonfat option.
- Roll into balls and marinate in olive oil flavored with lemon zest, herbs, and chile flakes for a mezze dish.
- Drizzle with honey and serve with fresh fruit (or spread on toast) for breakfast.
- Mix with your favorite jam and use as a filling inside crepes.
- Use in dips and salad dressing recipes in place of sour cream or yogurt.