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!
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.