Libyan-Style Briks with Tuna, Spinach, and Eggs
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 40 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes
Briks (sounds like “breeeks”) are a staple street food of Libya. Libya has a long history of foreign rule—from the Berbers to the Phoenicians and the Ottoman Turks. It became an Italian colony in the early 20th century, finally gaining its independence in 1951. Large-scale emigration from Italy to Libya and the consequent influence of Italian cuisine there is very strong and makes Libyan cuisine quite distinctive. This crispy fried dish is great for a brunch or lunch, and is perfect as a weeknight fried Chanukah supper. It is well worth finding the dough, which is available online. The recipe can be easily multiplied.
2 cups olive oil
7 eggs, divided
6 sheets brik dough (see Kitchen Tip)
3 scallions, minced (about ¼ cup)
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 (7-ounce) jar or can tuna in olive oil, drained and mashed well
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
½ small bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
3 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves only (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pour the olive into a wide saucepan (1 to 1½ inches deep.) Affix a kitchen thermometer to the pan and heat until the oil is 360°F to 365°F (see Kitchen Tip). Place a cooling rack into a rimmed baking sheet.
- In a small bowl or cup, whisk 1 egg together with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash.
- Remove 1 sheet of brik dough from the package and reseal it. Place the sheet on a work surface. Combine ½ teaspoon of the scallions, 1 tablespoon spinach, 1 tablespoon of the mashed tuna, ¼ teaspoon capers, 1 teaspoon of parsley and a few leaves of oregano and place on one side of the brik. Make a small well in the middle of the vegetable mixture. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl, carefully slide it into the well, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Working quickly, use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the brik lightly with the egg wash. Fold the other side of the brik (the side without the vegetable filling) in half over the egg and vegetable mixture to form a half-circle. Gently press down to seal.
- Then, seal up the brik: With the folded edge facing you, grasp the right and left sides of the brik and fold them in toward the center on top of the filled area. Fold the last open side up and over the rest of the brik, using additional egg wash if necessary to seal the package. (Don’t attempt to fill and fold up all the sheets of brik at once; the dough will dry out.)
- Carefully slide the brik into the hot oil, and cook for about 1 minute, until the brik begins to firm up and the edges begin to crisp. With a spatula, gently turn the brik and continue to cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute more, until golden brown (see Kitchen Tip). With a slotted spoon or kitchen spider, transfer to the prepared cooling rack. Fill and fry the remaining briks to make 5 more. Serve immediately.
- Brik dough is a unique product; it is available online and at Middle Eastern stores. It is a cooked, flat, thin dough, somewhat like the dough for bourekas (the Israeli name for the filled pastry that is common throughout the Mediterranean and the Baltics). Brik dough is a bit thinner than authentic boureka dough, but it it is thicker than a commercial filo and less likely to fall apart. (If you try filo, it will most likely fall apart.) If you have access to an Indian store, pathiri—a rice-based pancake—will work. (Logically enough, brik dough was brought to the Malabar Coast of India by Arabs.) Some bloggers suggest substituting wonton wrappers. I find that although they are more stable, the wonton is too thick, becomes too hard and makes a brik that is really very small. Click here and here to find different brands of brik dough online. Briks keep very well in the refrigerator in their package for up to 2 weeks.
- If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, you can heat the oil over medium heat and carefully drop in a small piece (about an inch square) of bread. If it turns brown all over and floats to the surface in 60 seconds, the oil is about 350°F to 365°F. If it browns sooner, the temp is higher: 20 seconds and it’s somewhere between 382°F and 390°F; 40 seconds and it’s between 365°F and 382°F. Once the oil reaches the specified temperature, monitor it from time to time and reduce the heat if necessary to keep it at the proper temperature.
- Traditionally, the eggs in a brik should be soft-cooked and a bit runny, but if you prefer you can cook until the eggs are done to your preference; the crust will brown more the longer the briks cook.