Cypriot Carnival Bourekia

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Happy Mardi Gras (Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, etc)! Here in the US, we associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans’ celebrations alone. But this week I reminded myself that not everyone celebrates with beads, King Cake, Cajun food, and exposed breasts. So I looked into worldwide traditions, with the hopes of picking a different dish to make tonight. (I wanted a surprise for Selim when he came home from work, so I was looking for his favorite foods and flavors!) I learned so much – pretty much every country with healthy Catholic or Orthodox Christian traditions has their own celebrations. In my browsing, I decided I should definitely have been born in Cyprus. There, Carnival is a two week celebration – the first week is “Meat Week,” or Kreatini, which is the last week eating meat is allowed until Easter. The second of the weeks is “Cheese Week,” or Tyrini, which leads right up until Ash Wednesday. Cheese week!? A whole week for eating cheese?! How did I not know about this until now?

bourekia

Tonight we made these Cypriot sweet fried cheese pastries called bourekia. (I’ve also seen the spelling pourrekia, I’m not sure the difference, other than just translation into the Latin alphabet?) To be truly authentic, they should have Cypriot anari cheese inside, but given that isn’t entirely readily available in the US, the internet assures me that unsalted ricotta is an acceptable substitute. The rosewater and cinnamon take the cheesy filling and make it sweeter and full of the flavors of the greater Middle East and Mediterranean. I’m still mildly terrified of frying things, despite our recent forays into frying (Southern Fried Chicken & Shrimp Beignets), but we jumped head-first into our first fried treat tonight! Good thing we have our Culinary Bucket List to keep motivating us.

I’m not going to lie, these were good, but not perfect. I’m happy enough with the result to share, but I need to work on the dough. I’m not 100% content with that. The filling however… Perfect! Sweet, but not overly sugary, with a delicious blend of flavors. The hint of rosewater is excellent!

bourekia3
Cypriot Carnival Bourekia

(Adapted from this publication from Toni Buxton & the Cyprus Tourism Organisation)
Ingredients:
  • 4 cups AP flour
  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water (+ more if needed)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp rosewater
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  • Oil, for frying
Instructions:
  1. Mix together the four, oil, and salt. Knead together, adding small bits of a cold water if needed to create a smooth dough ball.
  2. Wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, stir the cinnamon, sugar, and rosewater into the ricotta cheese.
  4. After the 30 minutes, roll out the dough and cut out circles. Use the base of a glass to stamp them out. You want the dough to be fairly thin – mine were somewhere between 1/8th & 1/16th of an inch.
  5. Spoon a small dollop of the cheese mixture into the center of each circle. Brush water on the edges of the dough circles and fold over into half-moons. Crimp edges together.
  6. Heat the oil in a heavy, tall-sided pot to 365 degrees. Fry the bourekia in batches, taking care not to crowd the pot, for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Remove them to a paper towel to drain and dry. Dust with powdered sugar prior to serving!

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