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:
Minced Lamb 300g
One Large onion
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.
White cheese 200g (haloumi, nabulsi or baladi)
Parsley two handful
Grate or chop the cheese finely. Mix with parsley and good amount of black pepper.
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.