Monday, April 19, 2010

Turkish Spinach Pie (Ispanakli Borek)

Borek is a general term in Turkish cuisine that applies to a family of pastries with about fifty different members. It is a type of baked or fried filled pastry, made of a thin flaky dough known as yufka (or phyllo). It can be filled with cheese, often feta, or kaşar, ground meat, or vegetables such as spinach, zucchini, potatoes, leeks, also carrot and peas. Spinach Borek is very popular in the countries composing the former Ottoman Empire such as Greece. This recipe may sound time consuming but as Alton Brown always says :"YOUR PATIENCE WILL BE REWARDED!":-)

40 phyllo dough sheets (1 packet)
1 lb fresh spinach (semi-savoy,chopped and washed thoroughly)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
1/2 cup crumbled feta (you can also use ricotta or cream cheese)*
4 eggs
1 and 1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil or canola oil for egg mixture
2 tbs olive oil for spinach (or butter)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
nigella seeds and/or sesame seeds


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Thaw phyllos according to the instructions on the package. Generally speaking, you want to thaw the dough slowly, in its box and wrapping bag. Some companies include microwave thawing instructions. This is very risky. Thaw too quickly or at too high a power and you will end up with a gummy wet mess instead of separate sheets. Keep stacks covered with a dampened clean kitchen towel (Do not place the towel directly on top of the dough.)
2. Heat 2tbs of olive oil in a pan. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add chopped spinach after the onions change color and cook for a few minutes. Spinach may look a lot but it will reduce significantly when it is cooked.
3.Cool the spinach for 5 min. Season with salt and pepper and add cheese (you can also add some crushed red pepper).
4. In another bowl beat the eggs and add milk and olive oil. Mix well.
5. Grease a pan that's approximately the same size with phyllo sheets. Layer half of phyllo dough sheets in the pan by brushing every single layer generously with the liquid mixture.
6. On the 20th phyllo spread spinach mix. Keep layering the rest of phyllos by brushing each layer with the mixture.
7. After putting down the last phyllo, pour the rest of the egg mixture on top.Sprinkle the pie with nigella seeds and/or sesame seeds.
8. Bake in a preheated oven 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. When cooked sprinkle 1 tbs of cold water over the pie, right after removing from oven and cover with a kitchen towel. Wait for 5 to 10 min. and then cut and serve.

* You can also skip the cheese in this recipe and make with spinach filling only. If you are using ricoatta: using a coffee filter set over a bowl, drain the ricotta and discard the liquid.


  1. In another life when I lived in Istanbul, I was shown to put a good size (1 Tablsp of chopped fresh Mint, Dill, and I cup Italian Parsley), it really made a difference to the superb flavor.

  2. Many of the Greek recipes are taken from the Turks who are fantastic cooks. Always try to find the true Turkish recipe for whatever Greek recipe you have and add the difference. I am neither Turk nor Greek no bias