Silvia Nacamulli's Buricche. Photo courtesy of Silvia Nacamulli
Silvia Nacamulli's Buricche. Photo courtesy of Silvia Nacamulli
Recipe

Burriche – Italian Empanadas with three fillings

The Italian burriche has dough like a empanada and the shape of a borek, but the fillings are uniquely Italian. A purim classic from Silvia Nacamulli

These traditional Italian Jewish pastries from Ferrara and Emilia-Romagna (also known in Venice as burriche) come in both savory and sweet forms with a dozen different types of filling, especially for savory – the sweet versions are usually made with almond paste. Sometimes leftovers such as shredded chicken or vegetables are used in savory versions. The three I’ve included here are among my favorites and are filled with meat, tuna, and aubergine and tomato. They are great as an appetizer, a starter or as a party food and are popularly made for Purim.

The name and shape remind us of Turkish börek but the pastry is more like that of empanadas from Spain. Indeed, the many varied fillings of these small bites come from all three of Italy’s Jewish traditions – Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Italian – reflecting the true marriage of cultures and culinary traditions that both Ferrara and Venice have witnessed over the centuries.

The pastry is light, pareve (dairy-free) and easy to make, just make sure you roll it very thin – 1/16-inch (2 mm). You can use ready-rolled pastry such as puff pastry or flaky pâte brisée if you don’t want to make your own – and roll it thinner – but frankly it takes hardly any time to make, and has a delicate and unique taste from shop bought pastries, so do give it a go.

The quantities of each filling are enough for one batch of pastry, plus a little extra.

This recipe is from the cookbook “Jewish Flavors of Italy” by Silvia Nacamulli – a member of the FOODISH advisory committee, a London cook, lecturer and author of Roman origin who specializes in Jewish-Italian cuisine.

For more recipes from the book

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Ingredients for Burriche

For the dough:

  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) sunflower oil or light olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) water tepid
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1⅔ cup (250 grams) flour

For the meat filling:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • a pinch cinnamon
  • a pinch ground nutmeg
  • 7 oz (200 grams) ground chicken (or other meat of your choice)
  • a splash white wine
  • 1/2 cup (30 grams) breadcrumbs (soft, moistened with 3 tablespoons stock or hot salted water)
  • sea salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

For the tuna filling:

  • 5 oz (150 grams) canned tuna in oil (weight includes oil)
  • 3 anchovy filets in oil, finely chopped
  • 1¾ oz (50 grams) black olives good quality (such as Taggiasca or Kalamata), pitted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) capers chopped
  • 1 egg soft-boiled, cooled, peeled and chopped (optional)
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced

For the eggplant tomato filling:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • a pinch chili powder (optional)
  • 1 (7oz 200 gram) eggplant cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes
  • scant 1 cup (7 oz/200 grams) tomato paste (passata)
  • sea salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste

To finish:

  • 1 egg beaten, for brushing
  • Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

Instructions

Prepare the dough:

  • 1. Put the oil, tepid water and salt in a bowl and stir. Gradually add the flour while continuing to stir. Eventually start kneading the dough by hand (on a worktop or in the bowl) – it should feel soft but not sticky. Work the dough for a couple of minutes, then wrap in plastic wrap and leave to rest at room temperature while you move on to the filling of your choice.

Prepare the filling:

  • 2. For the meat filling: Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the onion and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for a minute, then add the minced meat, increase the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10–12 minutes, breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon and adding the wine halfway through. Transfer to a shallow heatproof bowl or plate and leave to cool for a few minutes, then spoon in the moistened soft breadcrumbs and mix well with your hands or a fork.

  • 3. For the tuna filling: Flake the tuna and put it into a shallow bowl with all of its oil. Add the anchovies, olives, capers, egg (if using) and the lemon zest and juice; mix well.

  • 4. For the aubergine and tomato filling: Heat the oil in a saucepan or frying pan over a low to medium heat, add the onion and cook, covered, for 5 minutes until soft but not browned, then add the chili powder (if using), stir, and add the eggplant. Sauté over medium to high heat for 10–15 minutes, then add the tomato puree, 2–3 tablespoons of water, a good pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Stir, cover, and cook over low heat for about 30–40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is soft and easy to mash. Transfer to a bowl, mash with a fork and leave to cool to room temperature.

Assemble and bake:

  • 5. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  • 6. Unwrap the pastry, divide it in two and roll each piece out to a circle about 1/16 inch (2 mm) thick. It is important to make it very thin or the burriche will be too doughy and dry.

  • 7. Cut out 3¼-3½ inch (8–9 cm) circles using a large glass or a biscuit cutter. I usually twist the trimmings into miniature pastry bites, but you can roll them out again to make more burriche if you prefer.

  • 8. Put a teaspoon of the filling of your choice in the centre of each pastry circle and fold the pastry over into a half-moon shape. The surfaces should stick together easily, but if the pastry is a touch dry, simply wet the edges with a little water. Gently press the edges with a fork or pinch them with your fingertips to seal.

  • 9. Brush each parcel with beaten egg for a glazed finish and sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds if you like (the original recipe doesn’t have seeds but I think they look and taste lovely!). Place on the lined tray and bake for 20–25 minutes until golden. Eat hot or warm.

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