Cullama Borek (Filo dough stuffed with rice and chicken) – Take One

This dish has been THE Borek on the menu when lots of people come over for dinner or tea to my grandma’s house. It definitely can be eaten as a main course, as it has all you can ask for from a dish. I don’t think anybody else in my immediate family makes this  since my grandma is always there, ready with a pan of cullama when you knock on her door.

Since she isn’t here to make it when I crave for it, I decided to get my hands on the recipe. But guess what?? She does not have one written down! Come to think of it, I have never seen my grandma opening a recipe book in my life. She has been making this for years!! If she does not have this recipe, she probably does not have any other dish she makes… Well then, I decided I need to change this—for my own good.

So I called her up and started asking the usual questions. How much rice does she use? “Well…you know, somewhere around one glass maybe” I was like, ok… what kind of glass? (We don’t use measuring cups religiously in Turkey as we do here in the US. Everything is measured by the glass you drink water from, by the glass you drink tea from, or by the cups you drink Turkish coffee from!) So, how much spices does she use? “A little.” What is a little? A teaspoon, tablespoon, a pinch?? “You know, just eyeball it for the amount of rice and chicken you use”

Gotta love this process of getting a recipe from the older generation… those who just whipped things up like there is nothing to it. All the instructions are vague; it’s almost like they don’t want you to be able to duplicate it! :) My mom was able to write some of it down by talking to my grandma and putting some numbers on the ingredients.  I am a determined soul when it comes to cullama, so I will work on the recipe to fine tune. Here is my first version. Turned out pretty good I think. I know, for the next one, I will increase the amount of rice from one water glass to a beer glass! :)

Ingredients

  • 5 filo dough (these are what we call “yufka” – see the picture below- Not the “thinner than paper filo dough” sold in US supermarkets. At the end of the post, I provided links to some online Turkish grocery stores that deliver in the US, and also the local store (Charlotte, NC) where I buy this type of yufka. It comes frozen and you can keep it in the freezer until you use it. Take it out of the freezer and thaw a couple of hours before you use it. )
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 chicken breasts (cooked and shredded) (I used split chicken breasts with bone in, covered with water and boiled it until done. )
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1-1/2 cup of water to cook the rice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/3 cup of currants (soaked in warm water for half an hour and patted dry)
  • 3 oz pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-3/4 cups of warm chicken stock (you can use the water that you cooked the chicken in)

Filling

1. Wash the rice to get rid of the excess starch.

2. Saute pine nuts in olive oil. Add the rice and continue to saute another minute.

3. Add water and cook the rice until all water is gone (about 15-20 min).

4. Add the shredded chicken, cinnamon, allspice, currants, salt and pepper. Mix it well until spices are blended with the rice.

Assembly

1. Melt the butter

2. Put one yufka on the bottom of the pan and cut it big enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Dip your brush in the melted butter and brush it all over the yufka. (I used a 14 inch deep dish pizza pan to assemble and cook it, since that was the closest thing I could find to what my grandma uses—hers has walls that are a bit higher).

3. Tear the trimmings from the first yufka you put on the bottom, and layer the pieces over the buttered yufka layer. Brush more melted butter and move onto tearing another yufka and add another layer to the bottom of the pan. You will use two yufka for the bottom layer, each time brushing melted butter between the layers of torn yufka.

4. Spread the half of the rice/chicken filling evenly in the pan.

5. Tear and layer two more yufka, again brushing melted butter between the layers.

6. Spread the second half of the filling.

7. Cut the last yufka to fit the pan like you did with the bottom one, and save this one as the last layer on top. Layer the leftover pieces from the last yufka over the filling and brush them with the butter. Put the last piece of yufka to cover the whole top. The cullama borek is now assembled. Cut the borek in 2 inch by 2 inch squares. Pour the remaining melted butter evenly on the borek.

Cooking

1. Cook the assembled borek in preheated 350 degree oven until the yufka starts browning on top (30-40 min depending on your oven).

2. Once it is brown, pour the chicken stock over the borek and put the pan back in the oven again for another 15 minutes or until the water is gone.

Shopping References:

Yufka at www.BestTurkishFood.com

Yufka at www.Tulumba.com

Halal International
3120 North Sharon Amity Road
Charlotte, NC 28205-6539
Phone: (704) 567-8744

2 Comments:

  1. by Elisabeth
    6:19 pm
    Aug 2, 2010

    No need for a Take Two! This was SO good. And Everett had some the next day, and now he’s wild about pine nuts!

  2. by Camila Rodrigues
    5:56 am
    Oct 9, 2013

    I’m crazy passionate of the Turkish cuisine. Thank YOU for sharing! It reminds me when I was living in Bursa. Mmmmm cok guzel yani!

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