Friday, February 8, 2019

Stinging Nettle and Lamb Börek

If you've been reading my blog recently, you'll know how I ended up with some stinging nettles from Farmer Jamie at Serendipity Farms. If not, hop on over to my post A Little Kitchen Witchery and Stinging Nettle Risotto. Well, after that, I still had more nettles to process.

I have to chuckle with an exchange I had online with friend who is now an adult but used to babysit my boys when he was a teenager. Regarding my peanut gallery not thinking they should be eating something that required gloves to touch, he quipped,  "I think the peanut gallery has an excellent point." Shhh....

Then, knowing how much he despises squash, I asked if he would rather take his chances with the nettles or eat squash. Surprisingly, he answered: "Oh give me squash 10/10 times. I’m still traumatized by the nettles we had in our backyard as a kid." I promised I wasn't laughing at him. I lied. But that's a story for another day.

So, I had more nettles to use. I decided to wilt them, like spinach, and use them in a version of Börek.

Ingredients serves 4
  • 2 to 3 C fresh stinging nettles
  • water
  • ice
  • 1 lb ground lamb (or other meat)
  • 1 organic white onion, peeled and thinly sliced (approximately 2 C)
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 t fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 C crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 C crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • freshly ground salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 12 pieces phyllo dough cut in half lengthwise to make 24 sheets approximately 8" x 12"
  • melted butter for rolling

Stinging Nettles
I like to use a pot with a removable strainer to make draining it quick and easy. Fill pot - with strainer nestled inside - with water and bring to a boil. Place ice in a mixing bowl and pour in 2 C cold water.

In the meantime, pluck the leaves from the stems with gloved hands. Once you have 3 to 3 C of nettle leaves, submerge them in the boiling water until they are wilted and have turned a brilliant emerald green, approximately 30 seconds. Remove the strainer and plunge the leaves into the ice water bath. They can stay in there as long as you need. Drain the leaves and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a large skillet, heat the oil and add in the onion. Cook until the onion is softened and beginning to turn translucent. Crumble in the ground meat, season with cumin, and cook until browned through. Fold in the herbs and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms have softened a little. Then stir in the cooked nettles.

Turn the meat mixture into a colander and drain out the fat; you want the meat as dry as possible for the börek or the dough will get soggy.

Stir in the feta cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper, as needed.

While you're working with the phyllo, keep them covered with a damp kitchen towel as they dry out very quickly.

Place three sheets of phyllo on a flat surface. Spoon about 1/2 C of the lamb mixture on the short side of the rectangle in a strip that's about 2" wide. Brush the edges of the phyllo with melted butter, then fold in the edges and roll as tightly as you can without breaking the dough. Place the börek on a lightly buttered baking sheet.

 Brush lightly with melted butter and repeat until the tray is full or the filling gone.

Once all the rolls are ready, place the tray in the preheated oven. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes. The phyllo should be golden brown and crisp.

We served these with a crisp green salad and a nice red wine.

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