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Turkish Sigara Borek with Minced Elk

Learn how to make Sigara Borek, a simple and savory pastry made with minced meat, onions, spices, raisins and almonds.  These little cigars make a great appetizer and are fun to make with friends.  These baked gems are easy to make and can be reheated easily.  Make these for or at your next gathering.

Borek dumplings on a cutting board.

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Do you spend much time on Wikipedia?

I do.

Wikipedia is the modern day rabbit hole.  Just look up List of Dumplings on Wikipedia.

See what I mean?  This is my life.  Food blogging is a ‘creative’ outlet for many of my passions.  One is learning about new food.  Another is eating new foods.  Oh, and photographing food.  See a pattern?

I hope you have as much fun discovering new food as I do.  If not, because it’s a Tuesday night and you just need something quick and easy like Orange Ginger Pumpkin Soup with Miso, or Pasta with Anchovy and Cashew Sauce.  I get you.  That happens to me too.  Enjoy and take on the week!

But if you love the discovery, Wikipedia is your friend.  Some of my favorite searches include List of Soups and List of French Dishes.  I’m feeling a little excited and guilty for sharing this with you.  The ‘bug’ might bite you and next thing you know, you will start a food blog too.

I double-dog dare you.  LMK how that goes, okay?  I will cheer you on.

Well, this post is a result of diving into the List of Dumplings on Wiki.  Borek isn’t on there but somehow by clicking on through some of the links I ended up with Borek.  I am so glad I did.  My head is swimming with all of the possibilities like Middle Eastern Meat Fatayer.   I’m kind of giddy about this.

Onward to the deep dive into what borek is and step-by-step on how to make borek.  Borek is a very flexible cuisine.  I have included some borek fillings ideas below.

What is borek?

Borek, also known as Burek,  is a family of baked pastries that likely originated in Turkey, the homeland of wheat.  The dough is a phyllo or something called yufka, a stretched, unleavened dough that is usually layered with butter or olive oil in between the layers.  The pastries are usually baked.

This borek is called a Sigara Borek, they look like little cigars or cigarettes.  Since 2011 though, some bakeries refer to them as Kalem Borek to distance these dumplings from smoking, I think.  I’m not sure about that little nugget.  If you have some insight, leave a comment so that we all may learn.

Borek is common to the north and eastern Mediterranean, north Africa and up to the Balkans.  It’s popular, for good reason.

You can re-heat these by baking them in the oven, they will keep their crispness.  You can heat them in the microwave too.  They will taste just as great but will be softer on the outside than if you bake them again.

These are fun to make with friends.

Borek Step-By-Step

Sliced almonds in a cast iron skillet.
Minced elk in a cast iron skillet.
Phyllo pastry with butter spread on it.
A rectangle of phyllo with minced meat on the front end ready for rolling.
Both sides folded over.
Rolling the borek.
One rolled borek.
Uncooked borek on a baking sheet.
Cooked borek on a baking sheet.
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Various Common Borek Fillings

Each region and family has their favorite recipes for borek.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of what’s available.  I personally liked the cumin, coriander, cinnamon trifecta with the raisins and almonds.  I am going to try a vegetarian version and a dessert one too.

  • feta cheese
  • curd cheese like ricotta
  • potato
  • parsley
  • ground meat or sausage
  • onions
  • green peppers
  • green peas
  • custard with a sprinkling of powdered sugar for a dessert version
  • eggs
  • tomatoes
  • beans
  • regional spices and relishes like cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, harissa, chutney
  • mushrooms
  • chickpeas
  • beans

Names of Borek by Country

  • Albania- byrek, burek, or lakror
  • Armenia-byorek
  • Syria-burek
  • Bulgaria-byurek
  • Greece- boureki or bourekaki
  • Israel-bourekas
  • Italy-burriche
  • Bosnia- pita
  • Moldova-burechiuşe
  • Tunisia and Algeria- brik

Enjoy these and let me know how they turn out.  What did you do differently?  Did you try other fillings?

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Borek dumplings on a cutting board.

Turkish Sigara Borek with Minced Elk

Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 58 minutes

Learn how to make Sigara Borek, a simple and savory pastry made with minced meat, onions, spices, raisins and almonds.  These little cigars make a great appetizer and are fun to make with friends.  These baked gems are easy to make and can be reheated easily.  Make these for or at your next gathering.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs cooking oil
  • 1 lb of ground elk, may use beef or turkey
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1/2 cup toasted almond slivers (dry roast in a skillet or under broiler)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 phyllo dough, defrosted

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil and add ground meat and onions, breaking up the meat into small pieces as it cooks.
  2. When the meat is almost cooked through and the onions are soft, add the raisins, almonds and spices, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes.  Set aside.
  3. On a large work surface, spread out the phyllo dough and cut in half, short-wise with a sharp knife.  You want two smaller rectangles.  Stack these on top of each other and keep covered with a damp dish towel or plastic to keep from drying out.
  4. Melt your butter in a small bowl and pre-heat your oven to 375F.
  5. To assemble, take one sheet of phyllo and lightly butter it.  Place one tablespoon of filling on one short end in the center as shown above.  Fold both sides together until they are touching, roll into a tube.  Brush with butter and place on your baking sheet.
  6. Repeat with the remaining ingredients and bake until golden brown, about 18 minutes.
  7. Serve with a yogurt sauce or chutney or by itself.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 4 Borek
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 347Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 288mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 10gProtein: 20g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

David

Friday 14th of December 2018

These were fantastic. I really like how delicately crispy they are. Phyllo is a wonderful, tool, glad we don't have to make it my hand. This will be great with toum sauce. I'm going to try that next time.

Amanda

Tuesday 5th of June 2018

What an informative post. I've never had Borek, though I love phyllo dough, and I've also never tried elk! I love when raisins are used in savory dishes for that little pop of sweetness. These would make such a pretty presentation on a platter for entertaining. Thanks for introducing me to a new dish!

Amy Nash

Monday 4th of June 2018

I just love phyllo! It's texture is so wonderful and unique and it's fun to work with! I haven't tried borek but now I need to, because the filling sounds just as delicious and intriguing as the phyllo it's wrapped in!

Donna

Monday 4th of June 2018

I am with you on the rabbit hole that is wikipedia, once you are on there it is SO hard to get back off. So much to learn!! These borek sound fabulous, my kids love helping out with 'rolling food' so this would be a great little kitchen activity to get them involved with.I don't know about the elk though, I haven't seen it around here at all, although I admit I probably haven't been looking :) I will have to keep an eye out!

Annemarie

Sunday 3rd of June 2018

You gave us all this super interesting info on borek and other dumplings, but where did you get elk? While I've had the occasional venison, elk would something new to me. :) Leaving aside the elk, these dumplings look so good! I can see making them ahead for a party.

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