Cooking Class: Bourekas – Sephardic Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Pastries with Jennifer Abadi

Cooking Class: Bourekas – Sephardic Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Pastries with Jennifer Abadi


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The flaky stuffed börek — a pastry that once made its way up to the highest level of court cuisine in the Ottoman Empire — has long been revered in Mediterranean and Central Asian cooking. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when and where the first börek was created, recent research has uncovered clues that lead back to the Nomadic Turks of Central Asia from before the seventh century. During their many travels, the Turks carried their recipe with them from east to west, and by the eleventh century, the börek had become a staple in Anatolian (Turkish) cuisine.  In this hands-on cooking class, we’ll learn how to prepare this delicious pastry and what makes it such a cherished Jewish tradition in the Sephardic world. 
Today, börek can be found with different fillings under a variety of names throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. In Bosnia, burek is spiral-shaped and filled with cheese and eggs, while in Crete boureki is more like a double-crusted pie filled with zucchini, potatoes, and feta. Bulgarian byurek is a flaky pastry pie filled with eggs, cheese, and yogurt, while Tunisian and Algerian brik/brick is triangular filled with tuna and eggs and pan-fried. In Turkey, fried cigar-shaped sigara böregi with salty white cheese and parsley is one of the dozens that are prepared. And in Israel, different shapes and toppings are used to distinguish bourekas filled with cheese or meat for the purpose of kashrut.
How did the börek become a part of the Jewish cuisine of the Sephardim? The Jews of the Iberian Peninsula adopted the popular Spanish empanada and adapted it to their own tastes. Expelled by Christian monarchs during the Spanish Inquisitions in the fifteenth century, many Jews fled to more tolerant regions in the Ottoman world, bringing their hand pies with them. In Istanbul, they discovered the börek, and over time a Jewish hybrid evolved that was half-moon shaped using a thicker dough.
Led by Sephardic and Middle Eastern food instructor, Syrian cookbook author, and recipe preserver Jennifer Abadi, this interactive hands-on seminar will teach participants how to make this loved pastry. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of varying types of this cherished food and how it lives on in Sephardic communities today. Participants don’t have to be Sephardic — or Jewish — to enjoy it!

Below are the items you’ll want to participate in this class. We will email attendees the full recipe with measurements and instructions prior to the class, so that you can pre-measure ingredients before joining.
Note: Participants will be required to make the dough 2-3 hours ahead of the class.
Ingredients (makes 22 four-inch pastries)
  • All-purpose flour (1 ¾ cups or 300 grams)
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable, sunflower, safflower, or canola oil (6 tbsps)
  • Baby fresh spinach leaves (6 ounces) (substitute can be frozen and fully defrosted and dried chopped spinach)
  • Dill leaves (2 tbsp)
  • Crumbled feta cheese (¾ cup)
  • Eggs (5)
  • Farmer cheese (¾ cup)
  • Parmesan cheese (5 tbsp)
  • Sour cream or thick Greek-style yogurt
Special equipment
We don’t list every item you’ll need here (e.g., standard items like knives, bowls, cutting boards). But we do our best to identify items that may not be in every kitchen, and alternatives where possible.
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 or 2 large baking sheets or trays
  • Parchment paper for lining tray or silicone baking sheet
  • Pastry brush or folded paper towel

Jennifer Abadi is a native New Yorker, born, bred and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. She is half Sephardic (Aleppo, Syria) and half Ashkenazic (Riga, Latvia). She is a researcher, developer, and preserver of Judeo-Arabic and Sephardic recipes and food customs, focusing on the Jewish communities of the Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia, and North Africa. She is the author of two cookbooks: "Too Good To Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe" and "A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen." Jennifer teaches cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and at the Jewish Community Center Manhattan (JCC), as well as privately. Jennifer has been providing Jewish Food & Culture tours on Manhattan’s Lower East Side for Context Travel since 2012."

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 4 reviews
100%
(4)
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(0)
0%
(0)
0%
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S
S.
Jennifer is a Pro

This is my second Comtext Class with Jennifer. Her recipes are well written and easy to follow. But most of all delicious

L
L.
Simple but Savory

Jennifer's cooking lessons are simple to follow, and the results are always amazing. Her spanakopita, which I learned first, is now a family favorite. Jennifer also gives us the history and origins of the dish, an added and appreciated bonus. We all look forward to having the freshly baked Boureka for dinner tonight!

W
W.
Time well spent

Jen was informative and interesting. She obviously has a passion for teaching guests and my pastries came out great. I can’t wait to do another class with her.

J
J.W.

Guest did not leave comment

Customer Reviews

Based on 4 reviews
100%
(4)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
S
S.
Jennifer is a Pro

This is my second Comtext Class with Jennifer. Her recipes are well written and easy to follow. But most of all delicious

L
L.
Simple but Savory

Jennifer's cooking lessons are simple to follow, and the results are always amazing. Her spanakopita, which I learned first, is now a family favorite. Jennifer also gives us the history and origins of the dish, an added and appreciated bonus. We all look forward to having the freshly baked Boureka for dinner tonight!

W
W.
Time well spent

Jen was informative and interesting. She obviously has a passion for teaching guests and my pastries came out great. I can’t wait to do another class with her.

J
J.W.

Guest did not leave comment