When Avraham Mansoor came to London in 2011, little did he know that his interim business of supplying the Indian-Iraqi Jewish community with dainty pastries and, most famously, cheese sambusak would make him a Hendon institution and famous in his own right.
With a mixed background of Iraqi grandparents, a Syrian grandmother and Indian parents, their recipes followed them wherever they went .
In 1958, Avrahams parents married in India and planned to move to Israel, but a chance stop along the way via London had them rooted in the U.K. for many years before moving to Israel in 1978. Clearly, a love of cooking was in their blood because the family opened the first kosher restaurant in Hendon, where Avraham learned his craft with his mother, who would cook delicacies such as fish curry and potato chops — a fried mashed potato cake with a minced meat filling.
Since then, Avraham has become known as Avraham Cheese Sambusak. Working out of his kitchen in Hendon, he supplies the local community with many delicious pastries such as kaka (a savory or sweet bagel-shaped biscuit), dal (slow-cooked lentils), almond sambusak and date-filled pastries called date babas, but he is most known for his cheese sambusak. He has perfected his recipe over the years, which so far no one has been able to rival. He says that he is constantly working to change and perfect the recipe, and often adds in a little of one cheese or another to get the balance of salty and umami just right. However, the pastry recipe never wavers. He does it the same way each time, and whether he lets it rest or not, it comes out perfect!
It seems that Avraham Mansoor just has the magic touch and will always be known for his special cheese sambusak.
Note: You can freeze the sambusak before or after baking. If freezing before, freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, so they do not stick together.
For the pastry:
- 1 kg self-raising flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 250 ml neutral oil
- 400 ml warm water
For the filling:
- 850 g Gouda or Edam cheese, in blocks
- 150 g feta or halloumi cheese, in blocks
- 80g plain flour
- 7–8 large eggs + 1 egg, for egg wash
- 1 tsp salt
- Freeze the cheese blocks for several hours until they are frozen through. When you take them out the freezer, pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Make the pastry by mixing all the ingredients together in a stand mixer, using the dough hook. Once it forms a clean, smooth ball, leave to rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 170/175°C (340°F).
- Roll the frozen cheese blocks in the flour and then grate.
- Add any remaining flour to the bowl of grated cheese. Mix well and add 1 tsp salt (less if the halloumi or feta is very salty).
- Add the first seven eggs to the cheese mix, one by one, until the mix is moist, bound and firm, and not runny. If it looks dry, add one more beaten egg, bit by bit, to loosen.
- Roll the dough to ¼ cm thick. Cut out 7 cm circles of dough using a cookie cutter. Add 1 Tbsp mixture to the center of each circle and fold over into half-moons, using an egg wash to seal the sides together. Using a fork, press down to ensure the edges are sealed.
- Place all the sambusak onto cookie trays (up to 20 per tray) and into the oven for 15 minutes or until the tops are starting to turn golden.
You can freeze the sambusak before or after baking. If freezing before, freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, so they do not stick together.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Sephardic