Flaky filo pastry borek baked with a creamy spinach, artichoke and cashew filling - an easy yet impressive main course.
I've had a jar of marinated artichokes lurking in my pantry for a while. I could have just added them to a salad, but I had them on hold for something better. I've seen lots of recipes for spinach and artichoke dip lately, and decided a version of it would be an ideal filling for pastry.
I love working with filo pastry, admiring its smooth, delicate translucence when raw, and its golden, papery crunch when cooked. Borek, or filled cigar shaped pastries, is one of my favourite ways to enjoy it. Borek can be folded as small spring roll sized pastries, or rolled lengthways and twirled into snail shapes as I have done here.
These borek snails make a substantial main course and are perfect served alongside a selection of salads, hummus and bread.
Spinach and artichoke filling
This spinach and artichoke filling is really simple to make. It's a straight forward combination of onion sauteed in olive oil, roughly chopped spinach and marinated artichoke hearts. Lemon zest and juice provide a bit of brightness, and the filling is made creamy by stirring through some cashews which have been soaked and blended until smooth.
I thought I had raw cashews on hand and went to soak them the night before, only to be greeted with disappointment. The following day I popped out to buy some but didn't have time on my side for soaking. I used a quick soak method instead, covering the cashews with very hot but not boiling water for 15 minutes. They softened in exactly the same way, and blended just as smooth, it just took a little longer. For recipes that will remain raw, I prefer a long soak in cold water - but for a recipe like this, where the cashews will be cooked anyhow, there's nothing lost by speeding the whole process up a bit.
Marinated artichoke hearts are easily available from the supermarket. Simply drain them and roughly chop. I recommend checking over your artichoke hearts first, a few of mine still had some tough outer petals which needed to be discarded as they would have been inedible.
If you think working with filo is complicated or fiddly, don't worry, it's actually really fun. Start by having a clear work space with plenty of room. Set up a small dish with olive oil and a pastry brush, and have your prepared filling and a spoon in a bowl nearby.
Working gently, remove filo pastry from its packet and unroll it until you have a flat stack. Keep the stack covered with a clean tea towel while you're working so it doesn't dry out.
Remove one piece and put it in front of you. Lightly brush with olive oil, then layer another piece on top and brush with more olive oil. Evenly spread about two heaped dessert spoons of filling along the long edge that's closest to you, then roll away from you to create a long snake, then twirl that into a snail shape. Make sure you roll the pastry a little loosely so it doesn't split when coiled into a snail, or while cooking.
Repeat until you're done, closely packing the borek snails into a cast iron pan or baking dish so that they stay together. I gave mine another brush with a little more olive oil and sprinkled a few sesame seeds on top before baking until a deep golden brown.
I made seven snails, using two sheets of filo per snail. I had another two pieces of filo left at the end and could have fitted eight snails in my pan, so I'll be a little more sparing with the filling in each one next time - keep that in mind and be a better planner than me if you decide to make this recipe!
Creamy spinach and artichoke borek
These creamy spinach and artichoke borek are so delicious. Everyone in my family loved them, little people and big, and I think it's a recipe I'll keep top of mind when cooking for visitors in future. It's a 100% plant-based meal that doesn't compromise on flavour or texture, and I'm certain that almost everyone I know would enjoy it.
These vegan borek also hide an entire bag of baby spinach (healthy!) and quite a lot of cashews (protein!), so they're not too bad from a health point of view either.
This is a flexible recipe. Here are a few ideas for changing it up.
- Roll small spring roll sized borek instead, or roll long snakes but arrange them end to end in the pan as one giant snail.
- Replace the artichoke hearts with semi-dried tomatoes.
- For a cheesy flavour, add 2 tablespoon of nutritional yeast.
- Like a bit of spice? Add a sprinkle of chilli flakes to the mixture too.
- Forget the pastry and enjoy the filling as dip!
- 1 ½ cups raw cashew nuts soaked overnight, or for 15 minutes in very hot water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 bag baby spinach roughly chopped (120g, approx 4oz)
- 1 heaped cup marinated artichoke hearts roughly chopped (200g/7oz)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Black pepper
- 1 package filo pastry sheets (375g/13oz)
- ¼ cup olive oil (for brushing)
- Sesame seeds to garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 220C (430F) fan bake.
- Soak cashew nuts overnight in cold water, or do a fast soak by covering them in very hot but not boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse well, then blend with ½ cup of water until smooth.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frypan (skillet), add onion and cook until golden and softened.
- Add baby spinach, stir and cook until spinach has wilted.
- Add chopped artichoke hearts and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Remove spinach and artichoke mixture to a bowl, then add lemon zest, lemon juice, blended cashews, salt and a good grind of black pepper. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Brush a sheet of filo pastry lightly with olive oil, stack another on top and brush with more oil. Arrange about 2 dessert spoons of filling along the long edge in front of you. Roll to create a long snake, then twirl into a snail shape. Repeat with remaining pastry and filling until you have 7-8 snails.
- Pack the borek snails closely into a cast iron or other baking dish that has been brushed with oil, brush the top of the borek with a little more oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until deeply golden brown.
- Borek can be served hot or at room temperature.