No matter the dish, the pronunciation – as well as the recipe – will vary depending on the chef’s regional roots. In the case of cheese borags (or boregs, beregs, or boeregs…), there’s also a question of where they belong on the menu.
For most Armenians, cheese borags are a savory appetizer. But for some, they’re sprinkled with sugar and served for dessert.
The good news is that this is a delicious dilemma with no wrong choice.
These days, variations in the recipe also hinge on what cheeses are available. We use cheeses that were unheard of in the Old Country for two reasons: 1) We’re not usually up at dawn making Armenian cheese, as our grandmothers were. 2) We like them.
Once you learn the technique, you can fold-in almost anything you want. We’ve included a spinach-and-cheese filling recipe below. Or you can skip the cheese and try meat with onions, another popular choice.
The following recipe was handed down from my brother-in-law’s mother, Nartouhe Hourdajian.
Traditional Cheese Borag
- 8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (Muenster cheese can also be used)
- 1 15-oz. container ricotta cheese
- 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 egg (slightly beaten)
- 1 1lb. pkg fillo (phyllo) dough (thawed)
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter (melted)
- 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach (thawed and thoroughly drained)
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- 1/2 lb. cottage cheese (drained)
- 1/4 lb. feta cheese (crumbled)
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley (chopped)
- 1/2 cup scallions (chopped)
- 3 Tbsp. fresh dill (chopped)
- Take the dough out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before using. Once fillo dough is exposed to air, it dries out very quickly, becomes brittle, and is impossible to use. Be sure to have plastic wrap and a damp towel ready to cover the dough to keep it pliable while you fold the borags.
Folding the Borags
- If using large fillo sheets, cut the fillo dough in half, lengthwise. Use one half sheet for each borag. Cover the other sheets first with plastic wrap, then the damp towel, while folding each borag.
- Fold each half sheet in half lengthwise. Brush surface with melted butter.
- For each borag, place a spoonful of filling at the end of the folded dough that’s closest to you. Begin folding, as though you were folding a flag – on the diagonal from corner to corner, creating a triangular shape. If there is extra dough at the top, just trim it off or tuck it under.
- Continue to do this until you run out of filling – or dough.
- Keep the folded borags covered with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.
Baking the Borags
- Melt about ½ stick (or more) of unsalted butter.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush the top of each borag with melted butter.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Return leftover fillo it to its original wrapper, seal it tightly, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Leftover cheese filling can be spread on bread then heated under the broiler. There’s raw egg in the mixture, so cook before eating!
Cheese Borag Bites
- Use the same cheese filling as above.
- Instead of using regular fillo dough sheets, use prepared mini-fillo cups (sold in packages of 15). They can be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores.
- Fill each cup almost to the top with the filling. The amount of cheese filling given in this recipe will fill about 3 boxes of the mini-fillo cups – or – about 45.
- Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 – 12 minutes.