Culture and Nostalgia: Burek

Whenever we arrive at my Baba and Deda’s house, after the firmly placed kisses on each cheek as you step onto the driveway, we are ushered straight into the kitchen to eat. A huge platter of fruit adorns the center of the table, right underneath the Da Vinci replica, ‘The Last Supper’ and the hallowed childhood framed picture of our cousin, Stephen, who was the only one of us fortunate to be born a male.

Baba reverently opens the lid of a box to reveal….Burek! I have it on good authority that back in the day, she would have created the flaky pastry delight herself, however the Turkish shop down the road provides a delectable version, so we enthusiastically tuck into that instead.

Not having the benefit of her specific recipe, I have trialled a number of versions in the past and have discovered that there are countless varieties of this dish. I’ve experimented with cream cheese, puff pastry and feta, then stumbled onto this recipe that is the closest to my experience of the Balkan specialty. Here is my (slightly tweaked) version.

Cheese Burek

Ingredients
500g Cottage cheese
120g Feta cheese
4 eggs
4 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 cups Greek yoghurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 375g pack of fillo pastry
1/2 cup olive oil for brushing

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
2. Brush two pie dishes with oil and set aside (or one large rectangular casserole dish).
3. Crack eggs into bowl and beat.
4. Add cheeses, olive oil, yoghurt, salt and bicarb soda. Mix well.
5. Arrange 1 sheet of fillo pastry on bench and brush with oil. Place another sheet on top and brush with oil.
6. Scoop a small ladel of the mixture along the long side of the pastry closest towards you. Cover the mixture with the edge of the pastry, then fold in both sides over the mixture. Continue rolling the pastry forward until you have a long, thin, cigar shape. Place into oiled dish.
7. Continue rolling pastry until you have used up all the mixture and pastry, coiling the tubes around the dish until you reach the middle.
8. Place dishes into oven to bake until top is well browned and puffed up (at least 40 minutes).

I’ve found that Burek tastes a lot better the day after it is baked, or if you leave it to sit overnight in the fridge before baking. It also freezes well, you can just warm it up in the oven after defrosting. My mum also reheats the leftovers in the sandwich press to get the flaky, crispiness again.

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