There are many types of burek (thin dough filled with meat) around the world, but this Algerian version is the stuff of my youth. When I met my Bosnian husband and he claimed that one of his favorite things to eat was burek, I knew it was fate. While the two versions differ mainly in shapes — a spiral versus a cigar — the main point is that when you fill thin pastry dough with good seasoned meat, something so magical happens that it can even bring two people together who come from vastly different places. Yep, I'm saying that burek = love. 

My mother-in-law makes her dough by hand and then patiently stretches it and oils it until it is paper thin. I've done this with her before and it's as difficult as it sounds. There is just no way I'm about to do that by myself, so I use fillo dough or wonton wrappers. Yay for shortcuts! Once the dough is thawed, all you need to do is to cook up the meat with onions and cumin, salt and pepper, and get to rolling some cigars. When I was younger, I preferred to fry them in oil on the stove but now that I'm 4 years away from 30 and my hips are of concern, I choose to brush them with a little oil and bake them. Either way, you'll end up with a crispy shell and a savory, meaty, salty filling. Oh yeah.

Here's what you need:

Fillo dough or wanton wrappers, thawed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 pound ground beef (I used ground longhorn beef which is leaner)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

canola oil

1 lemon

Here's what you do:

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add meat, salt, pepper, and cumin and cook through. Drain off some of the fat, if you wish. 

Lay a couple of layers of fillo dough in a square or rectangular shape. Spoon some of the meat mixture in a line along one of the edges of the dough. Fold the edges over (like a burrito) and roll it up! Seal the burek by wetting the edge of the dough with some water and closing.

If you choose to fry, fill a heavy bottomed pan with canola oil (about 1/4 inch deep is all you really need). Let the oil heat up and then drop in (carefully!) the burek. Turn regularly until golden brown, and set on a paper towel to drain. 

If you choose to bake them, brush your cigars with a little bit of canola oil and bake in a 400 degree oven until they're crispy and golden brown. You may need to turn them once!

Serve hot, and squeeze lemon over the burek as you eat them. We also like to dip ours in a traditional Algerian lamb soup!

-camilla salem


this post is part of the dumpling a day while i'm away  guest blogger series. i'm in israel right now so i've gotten some awesome bloggers, photographers, and writers, to showcase delicious dumplings. if you're interested in being a dumpling guest blogger, send me a note at yeh.molly@gmail.com. yay!