I lost my older uncle Sulhi when I was 12 years old. I loved him dearly. I can barely remember him now though, it’s been 26 years since he passed away. He loved me too. We used to visit him on Sundays and stay for dinner (or was it lunch? maybe sometimes..). He and my younger uncle Lemi would sit at two heads of the table. I would always sit closest to uncle Sulhi. I remember being slightly frightened by him too, to be honest. Probably because he was the oldest person in the family and he had an authority. Also, at that time respect meant a bit of fear..
This pastry was uncle Sulhi’s favourite. He would ask his sister-in-law, aunt Selma, to make it for him. Why her, I don’t know, probably because hers was tastiest. Aunt Selma always cooked delicious food, I would even eat a type of meatballs of hers which I normally wouldn’t eat anywhere else at that time.
Actually, when I think about it, phyllo – or any – dough and pasta is kind of a strange combination. Maybe a lot of carbs going on there and that’s what is making it feel strange to me. However, when you add all those other ingredients, like cheese, parsley, and the sauce, it becomes a delicious pie like pastry. Besides, soft pasta vs flaky, crispy phyllo dough is quite a nice contrast.
In Helsinki, there are different kinds of phyllo dough you can find in various markets. In most of big market chains, in frozen food section, you can find Greek phyllo dough, very thin and suitable for baklava, shaped as rectangle. I think there are 10 or 12 sheets in that package. In ethnic markets, like Kaisaniemi Hauler market or Itäkeskus Alanya market, you can find again very thin baklava dough (in fridge, not frozen section). This package has many more sheets and is cheaper than the Greek version (about half price). In Alanya market there is also another kind of phyllo dough, thin but not as much as baklava dough. I like making phyllo pastries using this dough. But you can perfectly use Greek one if it’s easier for you to find.
The idea of this kind of pastries that we call “Börek” in Turkish is that you cover inside your oven dish / tray with sheets of dough, adding whatever your filling is in between layers. To keep the final pastry moist, you brush the layers with a bit of sauce.
This pastry is best made with bucatini pasta. This is a thick, spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. You can find it in big K-markets or in Itäkeskus Alanya Market. When you cut the pastry, you get a nice section with a structure of the filling, this is why bucatini pasta is necessary. If you can’t find it, then I recommend penne, but never regular spaghetti. Enjoy your new pastry!
Difficulty: ★★☆ (Medium)
(makes 1 pastry in 20x30cm oven dish)
250 gr. bucatini pasta
1 tsp salt (to cook pasta with)
1/2 cup (or 1.25 dl.) vegetable oil (I used canola oil), plus a little more to grease the oven dish
1 cup (or 2.5 dl.) milk
100 gr. feta cheese, crumbled
100 gr. cheddar cheese, grated (you can use another grated cheese too, if you like more)
1/2 cup (or 1.25 dl.) parsley, chopped
1 tsp salt (or less, if your cheese(s) is very salty)
1/2 tsp ground pepper
10-12 sheets thin phyllo pastry
5 little cubes of butter (optional)
1. Preheat the oven 200C. Cook pasta according to package instructions, with 1 tsp salt. Drain and wash with cold water, when cooked.
2. In a big mixing bowl, put the eggs and whisk a little.
3. Add oil and milk and continue whisking, until you get a smooth mixture. Take about 1/2 cup (or 1.25 dl.) from this mixture into a different bowl / glass and put aside. This is the sauce I was talking about above, which will give moisture to dough layers.
4. To the remaining sauce, add pasta, feta & cheddar cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well using a wooden spoon or a spatula. Put aside.
5. Put your phyllo sheets on the counter out of their package. Take your oven dish and brush with oil.
6. Take two phyllo sheets and put on the oven dish. Try to cover inside the dish, bottom and sides with the sheet, with excess parts hanging out of the dish. Brush the dough with sauce.
7. Put 2 more sheets on the dough. If you are using rectangle dough like me, align this second batch perpendicular to the first sheets. Again, try to cover the dish and let the dough take the shape of the dish. Brush with sauce.
8. (Again, if you are using thin, rectangle phyllo sheets) fold 1 sheet and put it inside the dish, brush with sauce.
9. Put all the filling mixture inside the dish. Spread it evenly using a spatula or a spoon.
10. Take 1 sheet of phyllo dough, fold it and put it on top of the filling, covering it all. Brush it with sauce.
11. Fold the excess parts of previous sheets, hanging out of the dish, onto the surface of the pastry, closing it like a little box. To help with sticking, you can use a bit sauce between each layer and side.
12. Brush the final surface with sauce. If you want, to give the surface some more colour and taste, put 5 mini butter cubes on top. Bake the pastry in the oven, in medium rack, for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the surface is nicely browned. Once baked and out of the oven, let the pastry cool down for about 1 hour before slicing and serving. If you cut it earlier, then it might be still a bit too liquidy. You can have this pastry as a main dish, or as a snack with tea/coffee. Enjoy!