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Around the World in 80 Bites

Passport & Plate - Bourekia (The wonder of Cypriot 'anari' cheese)

Cyprus | Tuesday, 11 March 2014 | 5 photos


Ingredients
Filling:
1 teaspoon cinammon
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rosewater or orange blossom water
500g ‘anari’ cheese (= Cypriot sheep’s milk soft cheese, ricotta can be used as a substitute)

Pastry:
1 kg hard (bread) flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
800 ml water
160 ml sunflower oil

To serve:
Sugar or honey

 

How to prepare this recipe
Sieve the flour in a bowl, add the salt and sugar then pour in the sunflower oil and mix together with your hands. Slowly add the water and knead until it has a pizza dough texture (soft but not sticky). Leave to rest for twenty minutes.

For the filling, mix the anari cheese with the cinnamon, rosewater and sugar, adding more depending on your tastebuds.

On a well-floured board, take handful-sized sections of the dough, rolling each section out with a rolling pin into a rectangular shape. Then with equal space between them, place a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on to the dough horizontally along the top part of the rectangle, then take the bottom part of the rectangle and pull the dough over the cheese portions so the dough rectangle is now folded in half. Then with a pastry cutter, cut along the two ends of the rectangle and then between each covered cheese parcel. Then press the sides with a fork to seal the parcels. Continue until all of the cheese is used and your bourekia are now ready for frying!

Then in a deep pan of oil with the bourekia covered, fry them until they show an even, golden colour and then place on greaseproof paper. Sprinkle with extra sugar or honey on top and serve.

 

The story behind this recipe
Aside from being one of my favourite desserts, I chose bourekia because it is a recipe unique to Cypriot cooking but also a tradition that correlates with the island’s culture.

Bourekia are usually prepared during ‘Tyrini’ or ‘The Week of Cheese’, which is the seven days before the start of Lent, in which families traditionally consumed their dairy products stored at home before beginning the 40-day fasting period for Easter.

Upon moving to Cyprus from the United Kingdom at the age of seven, I soon discovered the history surrounding bourekia-making. Visiting my great-grandmother Cleo in the village, I learned that bourekia was one of the few available desserts because with very little supplies at home and no supermarket in sight for miles, the villagers relied on the milk of their sheep and goats to make various sweets. Tyrini coincides with the Carnival festivities that precede Lent so every year, whilst I watched Yiayia Cleo roll out the pastry, local children would turn up at the house, dressed in masks and costumes, sometimes putting coal on their faces for extra effect and my grandmother would hand out bourekia for them to eat. Today bourekia are made all year round and remain a popular afternoon snack to accompany Cypriot coffee. They are commonly served to impress guests when invited to one's household.

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