Our third installment of the Street Food series takes us to the exotic lands east of Europe. A land of spices and intrigue, the former capital of the Byzantine Empire – Constantinople.
As we explore the bazaar, we weave our way through throngs of people trading in silks, spices, meat, and produce. Heady, heavy scents of cinnamon and cumin bombard our senses – and our minds wander to thoughts of snacks as our eyes fall upon a Cig Borek vendor hawking his wares.
The golden crust of his meat pies draw us in while the smell of his lentil soup warms our soul even before our first bite warms our bellies. Rich flavors explode in our mouths and warm juices trickle down our chin as we feast on the flavors and spirit of the lands of Turkey.
- 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 1/2 cup Turkish bulgur, small-grain, rinsed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 tbsp crushed tomatoes, in can
- 1 tsp red pepper paste
- 1 tsp red pepper paste, hot
- 4 cups chicken stock or water
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp dry mint
- 2 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
- Saute the onion with olive oil and butter for a few minutes. Add the garlic and when the smell comes out, add the lentil, bulgur, crushed tomato, red pepper pastes, chicken stock, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook at medium-low heat.
- When the lentils and bulgur are cooked, stir in the fresh spinach and mint. Cook just for a minute or so, allowing the spinach to wilt in the soup.
- Serve with lemon wedges.
- 2 cups AP flour (sifted)
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 onion minced
- 1 large tomato peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint (minced)
- ½ cup flat leaf parsley chopped
- Filling: stir-fry the lamb, onion, tomato, salt, pepper, cinnamon, mint, over high heat for 5 – 10 minutes, remove from heat and add parsley, let cool to room temperature.
- Pastry: put the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and ½ cup water, then add to the flour and mix to a soft dough.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough for 2 minutes – adding flour as necessary.
- Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 16 pieces and roll out to 5 inch circles.
- Put a portion of filling on one side of each pastry circle and brush the edges with a little water.
- Fold the pastry over the filling to make semi-circle pies and, using a fork, crimp the edges.
- Deep fry the boreks in batches for 4 minutes (turning halfway through), keeping your oil at 360 degrees. Drain on a rack.
These pies are delicious! If you are not a fan of lamb generally speaking – I urge you to try this recipe and reconsider. The cinnamon and mint pair wonderfully with this meat and I don’t think the experience would be the same with beef or pork. The boys loved the little hand held pockets and delighted in a flavor that was half dinner, half dessert.
The soup however got mixed reviews. Rhonda and I loved the thick stew like consistency and how the spices complimented the pies so well. Our boys didn’t care for it much but couldn’t say exactly why, but at least Arden (our 8 year old) politely finished his bowl and gave an even more polite “no thank you” for seconds. Both Rhonda and I thought the soup could have benefitted from some “body” and I think if we make this again, we will omit the chicken broth and go with a veggie/mushroom stock instead (effectively making this a vegetarian entrée).
One final thought – something is very satisfying about knowing where your food comes from. I always grind my own meat from a whole cut and I think that for me, the satisfaction I get from knowing “I did it” is an ingredient that immensely boosts flavor. Hand grinders will allow you to easily handle this dish with super fresh “all from one animal” meat and cost as little as 25.00 – In my opinion, well worth the cost. If you happen to have a Kitchen Aid mixer, there’s an attachment for that as well.