Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Sigara Böregi

I will not bore you with the details of my Master's research, but I will let you know that the geographic area it mostly concerns is Turkey. In addition to researching methodologies, academic approaches, and fact-finding, I am also drowning myself in the literature of Orhan Pamuk. To keep the thread laced, I wanted something simply and sublimely Turkish. Being simple was key, for I was playing in the kitchen during a study break. The parameters being set, I decided upon making little cheese cigars, which are ideal for appetizers - and I was generous enough to share.

On working with filo pastry, the key objective is to prevent it from drying out. I am a bit of a pro at this now, and I assure you that the goal is simply accomplished by resting the sheets of pastry (already cut to the desired size) one neatly stacked on top of the other, ensuring the top sheet is covered with either a damp tea towel or wet paper towels. Other than that, just work as quickly as possible.

The inclusion of herbs is optional as is the quantity. I used 4 tablespoons of parsley, but I could have used one less tablespoon, which could have equally been substituted with dill or mint, keeping with the theme of that which is Turkish. This recipe makes 16 little cheese cigars, which can easily be multiplied depending on the occasion.

Sigara Böregi
(from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food)

7 oz (approx. 200 gms) feta
1 egg, lightly beaten
3-4 tablespoons parsley, dill, or mint, finely chopped (optional)
4 sheets filo
4 tablespoons melted butter or oil

1) For the filling, mash the feta cheese with a fork and mix with the egg and the herbs, if including.
2) When ready to use them, take out the sheets of filo and cut them into 4 rectangles each, about 12" by 4" (30.5cm by 10cm), before covering with either a damp tea towel or wet paper towels.
3) Take out the top sheet of filo and brush it lightly with oil or butter.
4) Put a heaped teaspoon of the filling and place it at one of the two short ends of the rectangular sheets of filo about 1" (2.5cm) from the end.
5) Roll up the sheet like a cigar by taking the 1" (2.5cm) end over the filling and gently and tightly rolling until 1/3 of the way along the length of the sheet.
6) Turn the sides over, locking in the filling, and continue to roll until you have a little cigar.
7) Repeat until rectangular sheets of filo and filling are used up.
8) On a greased baking sheet, place the little cheese cigars close to each other and brush the tops lightly with melted butter or oil.
9) Bake at 350 F (175 C) for 30 minutes, or until crispy and golden.

Serve these flaky and salty beauties hot.

And now I'm finally off for a three-week visit to Los Angeles to be with my angelheart Eric.

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