Friday, April 12, 2019

Lamb Borek and the Secret of Sogginess

Lamb borek is stunning to look at, and even more enjoyable to eat, which is all thanks to, believe it or not, intentionally soggy dough. This is something I didn’t grasp the first time I made it, and I just brushed melted butter between the layers, hoping for something really crispy, and flaky, which in Phylloland is standard operating procedure. However, since my dough was not made flexible by the egg/yogurt/butter wash we used here, it basically exploded in like seven spots when I tried to roll it up. Lesson learned.

Besides moisturizing the phyllo, this magic mixture also adds flavor, thanks to the tangy yogurt; and the melted butter helps create a fairly crispy exterior as well. So, while we don’t want to fully saturate the sheets, a light brushing really does wonders. If you use a 9 or 10 inch round pan like I did, three rolls should work out nicely, but this technique will work no matter what you bake it on. You can also skip the spiral effect, and keep them straight, or bend them into any other shape.

You’ll need a package of phyllo that provides at least 12 decent sheets, and I really hope yours is better than the tragic box I bought. However, as bad as mine was, it still worked out quite nicely, so I’m not exactly sure why I’m complaining. Anyway, whether you make the recipe as listed, or tweak the filling to your tastes, I really do hope you give this lamb borek recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 large portions:
(for one 9-10 inch round baking dish)

1 package frozen phyllo (filo) dough
2 teaspoons sesame seeds for the top, optional

For the lamb filling (you’ll have some leftover):
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 pounds ground lamb
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons currants
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup water

For the egg/yogurt/butter wash:
1 large egg
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoon melted butter

For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons very finely sliced mint leaves
lemon juice to taste
1 crushed garlic clove, optional
enough water to achieve desired texture
pinch of salt and cayenne

- Bake at 400 F. for 35-40 minutes, or until browned and crisp.

Note: Save any extra phyllo, since the filling recipe above makes extra, and you can fold up some smaller, triangular boreks if you want.


Mike said...

Will take a shot at this for Sunday lunch. Thanks Chef John.

David said...

ProTip (ie, a tip from me to the pro ;)--breaking up ground meat is super fast and easy using a wire-type potato masher

Juliat Shamoun said...

This is excellent recipe Chef John !!😊
definitely I will give it a try
If we use a bigger baking pan we might fit the entire dough right

Which brand you think
Just have a question why did you select lamp meat
Juliat from Burlington. Ontario

Unknown said...

I lived in Istanbul for many years, and the spiral borek is very common there.

CaseyRocky said...

I found ground camel meat at my butcher shop, and thought ‘why not’? I am the Shrek of my camel borek! said...

How about using a bundt pan? Would you use only one roll or could you make a two or three layered bundt? If so, how would you gauge the cook time? said...

My thinking is 1 roll lamb, 1 roll feta and spinach, and 1 roll baklava. Voila, a one pan meal!

Michele said...

A good way to make the ground meat extra fine is to make large meatballs and cook it in water (with no spices). Once cooked process them in the food processor. Then put the ground meatballs back into a pan and add spices, onions etc. The texture is amazing.

Anna Rogg said...

This looks like a whole lot of fun and may even be pretty tasty!

I'm considering making the lamb filling and freezing it so all that's left for me to do (before friends come over) is the assembly and baking part. In that case perhaps it'd be a good idea to add the currants and pine nuts after the filling has thawed out. Or what do you think, John?

Unknown said...

If I don't have pine nuts available which nut should I use as a substitute?

Dismurred said...

Just made this. I had a little difficulty with the Filo wanting to fall apart as I rolled it and then went to place it in the baking dish. (I used a 24 cm pie plate).

Still.... it turned out great. The flavours were incredible. So rich. It has now been requested that I make this again in two weeks.

Definitely delicious.

Damocles said...

I have a general question on salt (making the borek and this occurred to me), salt to taste but usually you put in a quantity. I have several kosher salt in the kitchen and wonder what brand you rely on.


B Smith said...

I was wondering how you got it so dry? I had a ton of grease in the pan and it never quite passed the 'push and look' without some assistance from draining and paper towels. Any advice?

Unknown said...

I failed so hard at this tonight. Looks... soggy before I put it into the oven.

Mary said...

Chef John, my experiences over the years buying ground lamb, whether at stores in southwest Michigan or in Massachusetts have never been as lean as the ground lamb you use. They render out a prodigious amount of fat. Should I cook it first separately, draining it before adding the onions et al... or cook it with the onions then drain before adding the spices and tomato? Thank you.

Deniz said...

This is close to a variety local to Sarıyer district of Istanbul, with the currants, onions and nuts, though most bakeries being cheapskates these days, they often skip the currants and nuts. Your phyllo seems to be the stuff we use for baklava only (and the top sheet of another variety of börek), so it's not quite the same thing. But we never, ever use any sort of sauce for this, haha.

At home we typically use milk, but subbing yogurt for some of it sounds like an excellent idea.