A top Mediterranean comfort food, and puff pastry heaven.
Bourekas are served at home dinners, at picnics, at wedding buffets and soccer matches – in fact, anywhere and anytime people need them. And in Israel, people need them often. The flaky, savory pastries are eaten out hand, and they’re unashamedly crumby, so discreet, post-snack brushing-down of shirt fronts is usually called for. Nobody minds. Everybody knows about bourekas!
Bourekas conceal all kinds of goodies in their puff-pastry hearts. Drop by any Israeli bakery and you’ll find trays of bourekas stuffed with potatoes, or cheese, or mushrooms, or eggplant. Some are as large as dinner dishes, coiled like snails and eaten with knife and fork. Those are usually stuffed with spinach and salty white cheese, and accompanied by a hard-boiled egg.
This recipe for potato bourekas rates high in the comfort food category and is loved by the young, the old and the in-between. I’ve included a garlic clove here, which is unconventional. But it’s not noticeable in the dish itself; it simply adds flavor.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped coarsely
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large dice, or enough chopped potatoes to make 2 cups
- 1 peeled clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons additional olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1 pound puff pastry sheets
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Chop the potatoes and place them in a pan with the peeled garlic clove. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet. Add the onions. Cook and stir the onions over medium heat until golden.
Drain the potatoes and garlic, keeping back about two tablespoons of cooking water. Mash the potatoes and garlic together until smooth. Add cooking water, one tablespoon at a time, to obtain a mash that’s smooth but not watery.
Add the onions and the extra 2 tablespoons olive oil to the potatoes. Blend well and add pepper and salt to taste.
Roll the puff pastry out on a floured surface to 1/4” height. Cut the pastry into 12 rectangles. This is easily done by folding the pastry sheet in half, then cutting along the line made by the fold. Now you have two halves; fold each into half again and cut along the fold line. Now you have quarters. Fold each quarter into thirds, and cut along the three fold lines. You now have twelve pastry rectangles.
Place a heaping tablespoon of the potato filling on the short end of a rectangle, and roll the filled part over a few times until the pastry’s finished. You’ll have a rectangular roll with exposed sides. Neaten up the sides with your fingertips; tuck any bits of pastry into the edges. Don’t fuss too much; some filling does escape, and that’s normal.
Do the same with all the pastry rectangles. This is the traditional shape for plain potato bourekas.
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment, or oil it. Place the bourekas on it. You may need to make this in two batches, or use two baking sheets at once if your oven is large enough.
Brush the tops of the bourekas with the beaten egg. Sprinkle plenty of sesame seeds on each one.
Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Baked bourekas may be frozen in an airtight container and re-heated briefly in the oven at 300°F (150°C).
Tip: If you like, add fried, seasoned mushrooms to the potatoes – from 1/2 cup to 1 cup cooked mushrooms, depending on how much you like them. In that case, you’ll probably have leftover potatoes – which you can stir into an omelet.