Side Dishes/Appetizers

Iraqi Pastry Filled with Cheese

Unlike some people who flat out say they can’t cook, I know I can. There are few recipes I won’t tackle (if I don’t it’s usually due more to the fact that I don’t want to be in the kitchen for half the day, and then spend the other half of the day cleaning up said kitchen).

While some travelers make a big to do about attending a cooking class while on their travels, this isn’t something I have that much interest in since I cook…a lot. I’m not afraid to “be in the kitchen.” (Food tours are another matter.)  However, filo pastry is the one food item that continues to intimidate me (okay, if I’m being honest, trying to pull off a rack of lamb is the other). So if there were ever a strictly filo pastry class in Turkey, Greece, Jordan, I’d be game. Because even though I have worked with it before (to check out my awesome peachkopita, click here), it’s still incredibly tricky.

Iraqi Pastry Filled with Cheese

Visual proof that raw filo pastry does not photograph well.

There are so many adjectives I would use to describe filo-finicky, stubborn, diva-esque, impossible. Working with filo pastry is akin to (successfully) trying to get a wallflower to join you on the dance stage. And yet, filo  is used in some of the most awesome dishes-baklava, spanakopita, and innumerable other Mediterranean food goods.

I recently borrowed an Iraqi cookbook from my library and while there were about half a dozen eggplant recipes I would  like to  try (remember, eggplant is one of my top five food favorites even though I wouldn’t eat it as a kid-oh the wisdom we gain when we get older), I decided to go for something that equally captured my heart (and stomach)-a pastry filled with feta cheese and herbs.

So yes, making the borag jibin (apparently this dish originated in Turkey, hence its non-Arabic sounding name), meant spending money on the (overpriced) filo pastry in my supermarket’s frozen food aisle, and getting frustrated when the filo tore as quickly as a panty hose run, and yet it was worth it. No, my borag jibin didn’t look nearly as stunning or golden as those found in the cookbook’s photo, but they were good. And when you cook, sometimes the taste is truly all that matters.

Iraqi Pastry Filled with Cheese

Pastry filled with cheese (Borag jibin)

Recipe courtesy of The Iraqi Cookbook by Lamees Ibrahim

Makes 12-18 pieces

12oz frozen filo pastry, thawed

1 ½ oz/1 cup chopped parsley

1 lb crumbled feta cheese

1 tbsp dried mint or chopped fresh mint

1 egg (to brush the borag if oven baked)

Cooking oil for frying

Preparation: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

-Mix together the grated or crumbled cheese, chopped parsley, and mint together.

-Place a sheet of filo pastry flat on a board and cut into squares of about 5 inches (or to your preference)

-Spoon the cheese mixture along the edge nearest to you leaving about ½ inch at each side to fold.

-Roll the pastry over the stuffing fold, the two sides in, and keep folding over until you have folded over the whole piece.

-Repeat with rest of pastry.

-Deep fry for a few minutes until golden in color. Alternatively, you can place on a greased baking tray and brush with beaten egg or cooking oil, and bake in the middle of a preheated oven at 400 degrees F until lightly golden in color.

 Serve as an appetizer.

Cookbook Notes:

Filo pastry dries out very quickly, so it is always essential that while you are cutting, filling, and rolling, the rest of the pastry is covered with a slightly damp towel or plastic wrap until needed. 

Usually accompanied by a few slices of cucumber and decorated with fresh mint. Commonly served freshly baked with afternoon tea, especially during summer months.

Iraqi Pastry Filled with Cheese

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