How to make burek & sirnica

How to make burek & sirnica

I’ve known of burek pretty much my entire life. Thanks to the Ottomans the concept for this filled pasty has been adopted by many nations that surround present day Turkey. Greece has its bouréki, Bulgaria has byurek, Israel has bourekas and it goes on. The same applies to the present day nations that once formed Yugoslavia. Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia all have their own versions; filled either with meat, cheese, fruit or vegetables. Some are round, some are square and others are spiral-shaped.

I’ve never really considered making it myself as I was under the impression you had to be a master. Yes you can use shop-bought filo pastry, something that I’m sure turns out alright, but if you want the real thing you simply have to face the challenge and make your own filo from scratch.

It was a reader of this site that asked me to make burek. One cheese variety and one meat & potato variety – although the cheese one is called sirnica, not burek. The fillings aren’t all that difficult to figure out thanks to loads of recipes online, so I took ideas from many of them and formed my own ratios with the ingredients.

Farmers cheese is often used for the cheese variety, something that’s similar to cottage cheese, just drier. I just combined cottage with feta and some egg. Easy.

Researching the meat filling gave me a mixed bag of approaches. Some people combined raw beef or veal mince with finely grated onion and potato, while others cooked the meat before using it. I decided to cook mine as well, along with the onion, some garlic, paprika and a couple of other things.

The trick is to keep the meat mixture dry enough so it doesn’t sog up the burek as it’s cooking. My only problem was that I put a little too much meat inside, resulting in a thicker than normal burek. My inner glutton strikes again!

How to make burek

Now, to the pastry. This was actually the easiest part. An electric mixer can be used to form the dough but seeing I don’t have one I kneaded it by hand. The trick is keeping the divided dough immersed in oil as this makes it elastic and very easy to work with. Oil on the work surface, oiled hands and gentle manipulation to stretch each disc (there are 4 of them) to a 1 metre diameter.

I watched many YouTubes of guys tossing the dough to stretch it but after one attempt, and a slap in the face with oily dough, I gave up. It’s very similar to the way roti is made.

So here we have it. Sirnica and burek, my way, yet inspired by many. The recipe for the dough is enough to make two. The recipe for the cheese filling is enough to make one, as is the recipe for the meat filling.

Serve with ajvar – get my recipe here.

 

Print Recipe
How to make burek & sirnica
How to make burek and sirnica from scratch. It may not be the way your grandmother made it, but it's good enough for me!
Cirnica burek
Servings
pies
Ingredients
Dough
Sirnica (cheese) filling
Meat & potato burek
Servings
pies
Ingredients
Dough
Sirnica (cheese) filling
Meat & potato burek
Cirnica burek
Instructions
Dough
  1. Place the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the water a little at a time, mixing with your hand, until the dough comes together. You may not need all of the water. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until soft and elastic.
  2. Divide into four and flatten to about 2½ cm or an inch. Take a bowl big enough to hold all four pieces of dough when you stack them on top of one another (I used a small saucepan). Pour a little vegetable oil into the bowl, place one piece of pastry into it, pour a little more oil over the it and repeat until all four are in the bowl. Pour enough vegetable oil over the top to virtually cover the stack of dough. Set aside for half an hour while you make the cheese filling.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  4. To prep the work surface you need to spread a thin layer of vegetable oil all over it, so make sure you are using something like a stone bench top or laminate. Don't go oiling up your wooden table!
  5. Take one disc of pastry from the oil, scrape off the oil, then place it onto your oiled work bench. With oiled hands, flatten the disc from the inside to outside until it is about 5 mm thick.Then place your fingers under the edge, gently grab, lift and stretch the dough outwards. Working your way around all of the edges, you're basically stretching the disc to a diameter of 1 metre.
  6. It is quite elastic so just make sure your nails don't pierce the dough otherwise it'll tear, but don't worry if you have a few holes.
    How to make burek
  7. The dough needs to be so thin that you can see through it. Once you reach the required diameter take one side of the large disc and fold it towards (and just over) the centre.
    How to make burek
  8. Work your way around the disc, lifting and folding 4 more times to form a rough pentagon. Lift the folded pastry and set is aside as you make and stretch another disc just like the first.
    How to make burek
  9. Once the second disc is stretched place the first folded one in the centre, as shown above. Take a knife and cut the thicker edge of the second disc away, discarding it.
  10. Leaving the thick edge intact will give you clumps of dough in the cooked burek, which you don't want. Take the cheese or meat filling and spread it over the folded dough in the centre.
    How to make burek
  11. As you did with the first disc, fold the edges over the filling to form a rough pentagon. Gently work your fingers underneath it so you can lift it onto a baking pan.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden. As soon as it comes out of the oven drizzle the top with a little water and oil then cover with a cloth. Allow it to sit, covered, until it cools. This helps it set.
  13. To serve, cut the sirnica or burek into 12. Traditionally you have it with a glass of cold buttermilk.
  14. While the first one is cooking you need to repeat the process with the remaining dough and the remaining filling, to make the second one.
Sirnica (cheese) filling
  1. Place both cheeses into a mixing bowl and stir through the beaten egg.
Meat & potato filling
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion until soft. Add the beef mince and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the potato, garlic, rosemary and paprika and keep mixing until the beef is cooked all the way through. Season with the Vegeta, or salt.
    How to make burek
  2. Place the meat mixture into a fine sieve and set it over a large bowl or the sink, to allow any liquids to drain. Gently press it down with the back of a large spoon to speed up the draining. The mixture needs to be dry and completely cooled before using.
Recipe Notes

This recipe makes enough dough for two burek or sirnica. The filling ingredients are enough to make just one, so if you want 2 sirnica or 2 burek, simply double the ingredients.

Share this Recipe
  • Gea

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, your blog and pics are so inspiring just made the meat burek and my husband and 4 yr old are fighting over the last piece.

  • I so very much wish I could make this – you make it look so simple. Yet I fear… there is no way I could ever do that pasty…Off to the shops I go.

    • It actually looks more difficult than it is. Stretching the pastry is not only fun, but far from scary. You just need to be gentle!

      • Maureen McGovern

        These. Look. Amazing. I don’t eat vegetable oil as it’s a death in a bottle. Do you know what fat was traditionally used? I’m guessing butter or lard. Either one is much healthier. But somehow you’d have to keep them melted while preparing. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Edith

    I am going to try to make both of these as a surprise for my Husband. . I have eaten and enjoyed both these types of burek.

    • Hi Edith, hope you enjoy!

      • Edith

        Let me tell you.. Thank you so much I made these both last night and my husband was wonderfully surprised! He said they tasted just like his Mom’s!!!

  • Andrea B. Fay

    Hello, I can give you ajvar-s recepie:

    For the best result, use paprika with a lot of flesh on it. It has to be a bigger and red sort. Enjoy!!

  • Recipe for my ajvar here – http://heneedsfood.com/2013/06/ajvar

  • This looks amazing! Burek is the one balkan favorite that I haven’t mastered yet. When I traveled to Turkey, someone showed me how to make a similar pastry using phyllo dough, but it just wasn’t the same. I am so excited to try this!

  • Afrodita Baldry

    Wow, just found this by accident and will try to make the meso and krompir one for my carnivore hubby. He already loves all the other ones I make – feta, apple, pumkin, Turkish delight, a combo of frankfurters & cheese. It will have to be with ready made filo pastry though. There is no way I can master a home made one but I have lovely memories of my granny working her magic on the pastry in Bulgaria. Thank you for the recipes!

  • jlenaable

    This is the best recipe for making cheese burek. I used a bread machine – dough setting – to make my dough. It is much easier and the dough comes out almost perfect. My family is known in the community for 2 generations of burek makers. Now, for the first time, I am picking up the family recipe as the 3rd generation. This recipe helped me so much and my family’s input helped make it a success. I will be making it frequently because I enjoyed it so much. Thank you for the pictures. They were a great help.

    • This is great to hear, Jelena. I threw out my bread machine recently as it sat for years in the cupboard, unused. No I’m wondering if that was a wise move. I really need to make them again!

  • Andrei

    Question, is this the same as water burek? I tried one in Vancouver, Canada – they are called http://lamajoun.com it was amazing and I am trying to find that recipe, but so far unsuccessful.

    • I’ve not heard of water burek, but if you search for lahmajoun you’ll find many recipes.

  • Hi Una from Bosnia,
    Thanks for taking the time to leave your little note. It sounds like you only have the best recipe, considering all your yelling, so I’d love to take a look at it. Just a little note from me, not everyone knows, or really cares, that burek only has mince in it. Maybe you just need to let it go. 😊

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