Spicy halloumi handmade pies served with a spinach and yoghurt dip
Borani Esfenaj is a delicious Persian dip made simply with yoghurt and spinach and flavoured with garlic, a little lemon or lime juice and some salt and pepper.
I have fond memories of this dip as my khaleh (maternal aunt) would make it regularly when I was a child. This dish and Nargessi (a Persian breakfast / brunch dish made with garlicky spinach and eggs) are the reasons I love spinach so much. Spinach cooked with lots of garlic is a perfect combination and, with the addition of thick creamy yoghurt, makes this dip a lovely addition to a table full of appetisers for your guests to dip in and out of or a mezze-style offering.
Borani Esfenaj can either be made with frozen or fresh spinach. If you are making it with frozen spinach use 500g for the recipe below. Using frozen spinach creates a creamier dip and is perfect if you are serving it alongside crisps or other crudites for people to dip in and out of. If you are serving it as part of a meal, as in this recipe, then the chunkier dip with fresh spinach works well both in texture and aesthetics.
For the purposes of my recipe offering to you, I have paired the borani with some spicy halloumi pasties. The use of pre-made shortcrust pastry makes this a really simple meal to knock up but with maximum taste. The feel of this meal is very much Mediterranean-inspired and we happily eat this in the warmer seasons for either lunch or dinner. The pasties fare well eaten cold and we often eat the leftovers for our packed lunches on ensuing work days.
The recipe below yields about 8 pasties which, depending on your appetite, could feed between 4 and 8 people with 2 to 4 tablespoons of the borani each. I love serving these two dishes with pickles, olives or salad-type ingredients to pick at too. I have separated the two recipes below in case you want to prepare one of the dishes only and for ease of reference. If you want some extra carbs with this dish, then roasted sweet potato wedges work really well and can be dipped into the borani as well.
I like to make the borani the day before so the flavours can intensify. The pasties can also be made in advance and reheated in the oven.
Spicy Halloumi Pasties
Spicy Halloumi Pasties
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium potatoes (about 250 g - peeled and medium diced)
- 2 large cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
- 1 medium red onion (finely diced)
- 1 green pepper (medium diced)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp dried orgeano
- 2 tbsp biber salçası (Turkish tomato and red pepper paste)
- 200 ml water
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 40 g fresh coriander (chopped finely including stalks)
- 250 g halloumi (chopped into 1 cm chunks)
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
- 2 packs pre-rolled shortcrust pastry (2 x 320g sheets)
- 1 egg (beaten)
- A mix of nigella and sesame seeds to sprinkle on top of the pasties
- Take a large frying pan, add the olive oil and place on a medium heat. Add the chopped potatoes and cook until they start to crisp, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and stir until the aroma is released. Then add the onions and green pepper and cook until softened. Stir in the turmeric and oregano.
- Then add the biber salçası, water and balsamic vinegar and stir. Then add the chopped coriander and stir until the water has been absorbed into the mixture. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Once cooled, add the chopped halloumi and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- While your pasty mixture is cooling, take your pre-rolled pastry out of the fridge and leave (as per packet instructions) at room temperature for approximately 45 mins.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C in a fan oven)/ Gas mark 6. Unroll your pastry and using a small side plate or pastry cutter 5 inches in diameter cut 8 discs. You may need to take remaining pastry and roll to make further discs.
- Place 1/8th of the filling on one side of one of the circles. Brush the edge of half the circle with beaten egg, then fold over the other half to make a D shape. Crimp the edge using a fork or the back of a knife. Then gently push the tips towards each other to create more of a crescent shape. Make a hole in the top to allow some air to escape and place on a lined baking tray. Repeat with the other 7 circles. Brush with the beaten egg, sprinkle with nigella and sesame seeds and bake on a baking tray for 30 to 40 minutes or until they are golden.
- Leave to stand for 10 minutes before eating. Serve with the Borani Esfenaj and other mezze-style dishes.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 large cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
- 400 g baby spinach (roughly chopped)
- 500 g Greek Yoghurt
- Juice of half a lime
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
- Drizzle of olive oil and nigella seeds for topping / garnish
- Take a large frying pan, add the olive oil and place on a medium heat. After a minute add the garlic and stir untill the aromas are released. Then add the spinach and stir until wilted and it is coated in the garlic infused olive oil. Remove from the heat and place the spinach in a colander over a bowl to drain excess liquid and to cool. Allow all the excess water to run out, pressing it with the back of a spoon or underside of a ladle will help force excess water out of the spinach through the colander.
- Place the spinach in a serving bowl, add the Greek yoghurt and mix. Add the juice of half a lime and season with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle a little olive oil on top of the borani and sprinkle some nigella seeds as a garnish. Serve with the spicy halloumi pasties or as an appetiser or as part of a mezze-style spread with flat-breads (or anything else you want to dip into it).