Eat this

Is­tan­bul’s beloved borek was forged in con­quest and mi­gra­tion, yet there’s no bet­ter sym­bol for this bustling melt­ing pot…

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Why a hum­ble filled pas­try of­fers a glimpse into the his­tory of one of the world’s great­est em­pires

For most, the legacy of the Ot­toman Turks (1299– 1922) is the in­flu­ence they had on count­less cul­tures – as of­ten hap­pens when your bor­ders ex­tend most of south­east­ern Europe, the Mid­dle East and North Africa. Yet one all-con­quer­ing snack turns that idea on its head.

The borek, a sim­ple filled pas­try, emerged from the em­pire’s out­posts in Cen­tral Asia. It was brought to Turkey by mi­grants, where it soon found its way to cap­i­tal, Con­stantino­ple (now Is­tan­bul). To­day, street stalls and homes across the city hiss with steam­ing trays of borek – a link to the com­mu­ni­ties that moved here from across the Black Sea re­gion, not to men­tion a tasty snack for lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike.

Caro­line Eden, au­thor of new travel cook­book Black Sea, sees a city whose cui­sine is built on its past. “Is­tan­bul is full of peo­ple from the Black Sea: cooks, fish­er­man, ham­mam own­ers, bak­ers, taxi driv­ers… it is ar­guably the world’s great­est kitchen,” she ex­plains.

A clas­sic Black Sea borek ( see on­line for Caro­line’s recipe) might con­tain any of meat, cheese, sul­tanas, pine nuts or spinach, all wrapped in filo-like yufka pas­try. “It’s baked as a large pie, rather than as small pas­tries,” Caro­line adds. But due to its ori­gins, it’s no sur­prise dozens of va­ri­eties ex­ist in Is­tan­bul.

Sariyer borek, named af­ter the busy Is­tan­bul neigh­bour­hood, is filled with minced meat and cheese, while wa­ter borek, a va­ri­ety stuffed with feta and pars­ley, can be found across the city. There’s even a sweet ver­sion, Laz boregi (or borek), that hails from the re­gion of Rize: “Imag­ine a slice of baklava with pa­per-thin filo, but the size of a deck of cards and crammed with cus­tard,” tempts Caro­line.

You had us at ‘imag­ine’. Cer­tainly, we can think of no bet­ter way to dive into Is­tan­bul’s Ot­toman his­tory, or in­deed fuel a visit there, than by bit­ing into a borek. It’s the taste of em­pires.

Turk­ish de­lights The hum­ble borek hails from across the Black Sea re­gion, but found a home in Is­tan­bulBlack Sea (Quadrille, £25) by Caro­line Eden is out on 1 Novem­ber

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