About the Recipe
Sephardim from Rhodes Island have inherited from the Ottoman culinary heritage our affinity for the most beloved and versatile vegetable – aubergine, otherwise known as eggplants.
It is not surprising that one of our tastiest pie fillings is in Ladino – Gomo de Handrajo – are diced aubergine simmered in an onion, fresh tomato and extra-virgin olive oil sauce, with fresh parsley.
This moist and satisfying filling is perfect for the ever popular savoury pastries, bourekas, which are simple and easy to make, or the more elaborate pastelicos.
The pie filling may be made ahead of time as the flavours only improve. Once baked they freeze well, but be sure to reheat well and serve these mouth-watering vegan pies warm and crisp.
For the dough (masa fina): 1 cup vegetable oil 1 cup ice cold water 1⁄2 tsp salt 1 cup finely grated kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese
33⁄4-4 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
For the egg wash: 2 egg yolks mixed with 2 tsp milk
For sprinkling: 1⁄2 cup sesame seeds
For the aubergine filling: 3-4 medium-size aubergines (eggplants) about 1kg (21⁄4lb)
1 tbsp kosher or coarse salt 1 tsp fresh lemon juice 4 tbsp olive oil 1 cup finely chopped onion 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes, puréed 1 tsp sugar salt and finely ground white pepper 1⁄4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, use leaves and tender stems.
Make the filling: Peel, slice and finely dice the aubergines. In a large bowl dissolve 1 tbsp coarse salt into 2 lt (4 pt) water and add 1 tsp lemon juice. Immerse the diced aubergine and place a weighted plate on top to keep them submerged. Soak for 45 minutes. Rinse under cold running water and drain. Pat dry with paper towels.
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat and cook the onion for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Toss in diced aubergine and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes or until they are tender and cooked through. Stir frequently to prevent the aubergines from sticking to the pan. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over a low heat for 45 minutes, stirring until the liquid has been absorbed. Leave to cool. Add the parsley and adjust the seasoning.
Prepare the dough: In a large bowl combine the oil, water and salt and stir in the cheese. Gradually stir in 1 cup of flour at a time, enough to make a soft, slightly oily dough. Knead briefly with your hands to a smooth dough. Pinch off about 36 walnut-size pieces and roll between your palms into smooth balls and place on a large plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Work with a few balls of dough at a time keeping the remaining ones in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Shape the bourekas: Roll each ball of dough into rectangles (10x8cm/4x3in). Place 1 heaped teaspoon of aubergine filling in the centre of the rectangle. Lift and fold over half the long side towards the centre and then lift the other half over the filling, slightly overlapping and press to seal. On the short sides lift about 1cm (1⁄2in) and press down, securing the filling inside. Turn the pie over so that the sealed sides are underneath. Press all sides gently in to puff up and give it a raised parcel shape. Collect any remaining scraps of dough and roll into additional balls. Repeat until both the dough and filling are all used up.
OR shape as in photo.
To bake: Transfer the pies onto the prepared baking trays, 1.25cm (1⁄2in) apart. Brush the tops and sides generously with the egg wash. Sprinkle the bourekas with sesame seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Transfer to wire racks. Serve warm.
To freeze unbaked bourekas: Open-freeze on a plastic wrap-lined tray. Interleave the bourekas between layers of baking paper in an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month. To serve, preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) and brush the tops of the frozen bourekas with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake on oiled baking trays for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp.
To freeze baked bourekas: Interleave the bourekas between layers of baking paper in an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) and reheat the bourekas on a baking tray for 15 minutes.
For a flakier pastry, my mother substituted 1⁄4 cup melted butter and 3⁄4 cup vegetable oil in place of the vegetable oil and added 1⁄8 tsp baking powder to the flour.