You spend so long planning a trip, getting excited and then- in a flash- it’s over. This time it was a delayed reaction. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been back, usually the back-to-reality blues hit me right away. Work has been crazy busy, life has been more complicated than usual, and blogging gets squeezed into the midnight hours between it all… it took a while for my brain to catch up.
It probably doesn’t help that the seasons have decided to change overnight. Even Mother Nature is going ‘Ok, everyone, summer is over. Back to the grind.’
A burek, also known as a börek, is a stuffed filo pastry common in countries that were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey, Armenia, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Bulgaria, Crimea… the list is extensive and includes- you guessed it- Croatia.
Bakeries were very common in Croatia, but they didn’t look like our bakeries in Canada. No, these were much more Finn-friendly. Instead of focusing solely on sweet treats, Croatian bakeries offered a variety of fresh breads and a few little sweets, but focused primarily on savoury offerings. Pizza, sandwiches, wraps and bureks.
Needless to say, most of my breakfasts and/or lunches in Split were picked up from bakeries. They were cheap, delicious, and made a great meal on the go.
Given the variety of countries that continue to make burek today, it’s no surprise that they have all evolved their own regional differences. Turkish or Albanian burek is often vegetarian, filled with cheese and egg. Armenian burek adds spinach and anise-flavour liqueur. In Israel, popular fillings include potato, mushroom, olives or eggplant.
The methods of preparing burek also differ by region. In Croatia, burek were flat discs, with filling in the middle. In Albania, burek are typically folded into triangles, and look similar to and Indian samosa.
The spiral method I show here originates from Bosnia.
The filling? Inspired by a middle-eastern kofta.
Both places make burek, but different kinds, so this is an interesting fusion.
So, this recipe was inspired by my travels through Croatia, where I learned about burek… with a detour through Bosnia, where I discovered the spiral rolling method… and then a trip to the middle east to bring in elements of kofta and cooling salad. Fusion food, indeed.
I like to serve this hearty meat pie with a cucumber salad. The yogurt and mint in the salad are a fresh foil to the richness of the pastry, and the flavours perfectly compliment the kofta spices used in the meat.
Just in case my written rolling methods aren’t 100% clear, I have included some pictures underneath the recipe at the bottom of the page. They’re not the prettiest, but they’ll give you an idea of what we’re after. All in all, the most difficult part of the method was figuring out how to describe it!
|Spiced Burek with Cucumber Salad|| |
- 1 package filo pastry
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 egg, lightly beaten + 1 tsp water
- Olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 lb ground beef or lamb
- 1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup toasted pinenuts
- 3 Tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (aka pomegranate paste or concentrate)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- Cucumber Salad:
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 large English cucumber (or 4 Persian cucumbers), diced
- 1 small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1½ cups plain yogurt
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan. Add onion and ground meat. Cook over medium heat until meat is browned. Drain and discard excess liquid. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine parsley and pinenuts. Add tahini, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper. Add meat mixture and stir until combined.
- Preheat oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- On a clean, dry surface, lay out three sheets of filo pastry, end to end, slightly overlapping, to create one long rectangle of pastry. Repeat once more, directly overtop the first layer. Complete this process one last time to create a third and final layer.
- Brush the filo with melted butter. Arrange meat mixture in a long line across one long edge of the filo dough and begin to roll it up- tightly but gently. The filo may crack, but keep going. This recipe is surprisingly forgiving, so don't worry too much if the dough breaks apart in points. Roll the filo up so that it forms one very long 'snake.'
- Roll the tube of filo up on itself to from a spiral disc shape. Place spiral form onto the lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until dough is golden brown.
- Combine all salad ingredients in a medium bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve alongside the cooked burek.