Ramadan Special: Sambousek

Sambousek is one of these words that is very widely used but it doesn't have a specific meaning. In essence it is meat filled pies served as a starter, part of mezze spread or a side dish. Every one uses the word to refer to a different type of these pies, most commonly fried but could be baked. Other variations include different types of stuffing or even sweets. To make matters worse the exact same thing, meat or cheese filled pies, could be referred to as fatayer or Borak. The later is the most widely used name in Syrian restaurants although, to be fair, Borak is usually cheese filled rather than meat.

Sambousek is a very popular dish across the Middle East. There are Levantine, Egyptian and Saudi versions. Syrian and Iraqi Jews have their own recipes and even Sephardi Jews have a Sambousak version that is a distant relative of the Spanish empanada. The popularity of the dish goes all the way to India. You must have guessed that samosa is a variation of the name.

Now to my personal classification:
  • Sambousek is the triangle shaped pies made from thin pastry leafs that you buy ready made.
  • Borak is the turn-over semi circle pies made from freshly kneaded dough (Borek is the Turkish and most commonly used spelling).
Sambousek is closely associated and an essential on Ramadan Iftar table. They make a perfect starter accompanied with a bowl of soup. In my parents house we hardly ever cooked these outside this month.

Here is my recipe for three different variates:

Meat Sambousek:

Minced Lamb 300g
One Large onion
Vegetable oil
Parsley two handfulls

Finely chop the onion and fry on medium heat till soft. Add the lamb mince and cook for 20 minutes till fully cooked. Season well. Add the parsley and remove of the heat. Let cool down fully before using. For alternative flavours replace parsley with pine nuts or walnuts.

Cheese Sambousak:

White cheese 200g (haloumi, nabulsi or baladi)
Parsley two handful
Black pepper

Grate or chop the cheese finely. Mix with parsley and good amount of black pepper.

Sausage Sambousak:

This not particularly Syrian. It is inspired by Turkish pastries. You can use any spicy sausage or salami for this recipe. Albanian sujuk is perfect. Chop the Sausage and mix with grated Cheddar cheese and some sliced green olives.

You need a packet of Sambousek pastry leafs. You can buy these from large Middle Eastern supermarket. I buy mine from Green Valley in Edgware road. Alternatively, use spring rolls pastry.

Spoon some of the stuffing on the pastry sheet and fold into a triangle shape. Wet the edges and stick it closed.

Deep fry in vegetable oil and enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Are you fasting? So far I am doing really badly. My friend Saleem and I did it together last year, but this year my will power seems to be Zero. I've decided to give up alcohol instead...(!) I had some cheese Sambousek yesterday at Yalla Yalla, a Lebanese place in Soho, they were delicious!

Kano said...

No I am not fasting, not for few years now. I hope my mum will not read this otherwise I will get a telling off :) Like yourself, I do give up alcohol.
Sorry I missed your day on the Covent Garden market. I was preparing a presentation for that same evening.

Figen said...

Hi Kano,
They look delicious.Thank you for the recipe.We have similar one called borek as you said.But I will try your recipe.

Kano said...

do you bake or fry Borek?

Tammam Aloudat said...

Kano, I am surprised... In my family, we have always used Sambousak for the semi-circular ones with fresh dough, and they are served almost always with Shesh Borak which is a similar but smaller version boiled in yogurt.

Abufares said...

Now what should I do??? The photos and writing are amazing.
I too abstain from alcohol but as long as I'm here I fast too.
BTW just like you guys I never was able to pull it off when I lived abroad.

Kano said...

That is exactly my point, sambousek means different things to different people.
Speaking of Shesh Borak, does your mum (or Rania) bake them before she cook them in yoghurt?

Kano said...

thank you for the compliment.
I can't fast here in England. There is no atmosphere what so ever and I feel I am just starving myself.

Tammam Aloudat said...

You are right, the confusion though... We should go to Majma3 Allughah and agree on a unified naming :)

I have just been on skype with mum, neither her nor Rania bake Shesh Borak before they are cooked in yogurt. Another point is my mother puts rice in the yogurt which gives it another texture and consistency, quite different from Kebbeh Labaneyyeh for example.

Kano said...

my mum doesn't bake it either but if you google it, vast majority of recipes bake the berak before cooking. I don't see the point.

Danielle said...

I dream of Sephardi jewish sambousek and kibbe. Thanks for the recipe variations!

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