I have been on the lookout, lately, for recipes that can be made in quantity and then stored piecemeal in the freezer so that we can remove and defrost small bites as the mood strikes, or when company comes unexpectedly and we need something delicious that can be warmed up in a hurry. This strategy is also useful when a picky eater doesn’t like what is being served to everyone else. Personally, I can resist any foods that I shouldn’t eat, like cake and cookies, as long as they are packed away neatly in the freezer. I chanced upon this recipe when I was looking for a use for a pound of ground lamb that I thought I would make into lamb meatballs. I happened to have a box of phyllo that was starting to get old in the freezer and, by coincidence, I had all the other ingredients as well.
The original recipe came from Eating Well magazine, but because they are so concerned with adding even a teaspoon of extra fat or a few more calories, I am making some alterations based on my experience with the recipe and the fact that all the sesame seeds fell off because there was no egg wash to hold them in place after baking.
To work successfully with phyllo, thaw in its original wrapper overnight in the refrigerator, then let stand, unopened, at room temperature for 2 hours before using. After opening, remove only 1 sheet at a time from the stack and keep the remaining sheets covered with a slightly damp, clean dishtowel. Fresh phyllo sheets should separate easily. If they don’t, they may have been too long in the freezer or improperly stored. Don’t struggle with bad phyllo. Get a good box. A wide pastry brush, or 2 to 3 inch-wide, new, clean paint brush works best for this.
Phyllo Lamb Borekas
Yield: Approximately 4 dozen triangles
- 1/2 cup bulgur
- 2 cups hot water
- 1 lb. lean ground lamb
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove elephant garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, (mint, basil, parsley, etc.) or a combination
- 1 lemon, grated rind and juice
- 2 Tbsp. catsup or chili sauce
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 24 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
- 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1 egg
To make filling: Combine bulgur and hot water in a bowl. Set aside to soften, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Cook lamb in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Add onion and garlic to juices in pan; cook, stirring, until onion is softened and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the cooked lamb, drained bulgur, broth, raisins, herbs, lemon juice, catsup, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. Return to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until liquid has been absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Let cool.
To prepare pastry and form triangles:
Put oil in a small bowl.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush a baking sheet with oil.
Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on a work surface with a short side closest to you. Brush lightly with oil and place another sheet of phyllo on top. Lightly brush with more oil.
Cut phyllo with a sharp, pointed scissors lengthwise into 4 strips.
Place 1 tablespoon lamb mixture at the bottom of each strip and fold one corner of the strip diagonally over the filling to the opposite edge, forming a triangle. Continue folding the filling up in the pastry, as you would a flag.
Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling to form 48 triangles in all.
Beat egg lightly with 1/2 Tbsp. water. Brush tops of triangles lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until triangles are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
To make ahead, you can freeze and store the baked triangles layered between sheets of waxed paper or parchment in a shallow, airtight plastic storage box. Do not thaw before baking, uncovered, at 350°F. until warmed through, about 10 minutes.