Burek are a traditional Bosnian pastry – usually filled with a combination of potatoes with meat or cheese or occasionally spinach wrapped in a flakey, buttery pastry. Delicious yes?
Having visited Bosnia a few years ago I can say with some authority it is a beautiful country, full of stunning landscapes, cobbled old towns, tragic history and the most wonderful and frankly crazy people you will ever meet. My first taste of burek came in the form of a tour with the brother of our hostel owner who took us to what he promised to be ‘the best burek place in Mostar’. Here we were ushered into the kitchens to see the burek cooking in it’s large flat pans heaped with coals and along with a lot of gesturing and shouting from both guide and chef ordered our prospective burek – potato and cheese for me and meat for Joe.
From here we were piled back into our disco ball clad van and to the frantic ear splitting strains of Serbian techno folk (for those of you unfamiliar imagine hardcore dance music combined with traditional folk music turned up to full volume and you will be somewhere near) we tried our first bites. Utter deliciousness is the only way that burek can be described – light, buttery layers of pastry filled with a flavourful cheesy filling in a huge piece that we kept coming back to over and over throughout the day. In between swimming in stunning waterfalls and hiking up to see abandoned castles we would come back to our van and open our burek, tear of another strip and every time it tasted just as good as the first.
Having spent several days strolling the stunning streets of Sarajevo and Mostar munching on various other offerings such as baklava, chavapi smothered in kaymac and of course further burek (although non as good as that first bite) we returned home to a sadly Bosnian cuisine free existence.
A few months later, on what I think was a back catalogue episode of Saturday kitchen this recipe popped up. It instantly brought back that first taste in Mostar and practically begged to be made that instant.
Now this recipe is in no way traditional – in fact Bosnians would probably consider it sacrilege to even call it burek. But after it being in my repertoire for quite some time and adapting the recipe over and over to suite our tastes it has become what I like to consider ‘our burek’, and to me it tastes just as good in it’s own way as that original Mostar burek.
It is consists of a moist, flavour packed filling which uses left over roast chicken (cheap and practical!), wrapped in crisp filo pastry and topped with sesame seeds. It’s packed with chilli and creamy with haloumi cheese and frankly has everything a pastry should have!
I tend to go with two individual burek – but you could probably layer up the pastry and make one larger one and cut in into wedges if you wanted to, scaling up the filling accordingly! Make sure you use at least two sheets of filo, if not more – if you use only one it will split when you try to roll it. Also a note on chilli’s – I tend to use two finger chilli’s with the seeds in for a nice kick, obviously go with what you think you can handle but don’t be scared of the chilli!
Chicken, Haloumi and Chilli Burek
Half a large Onion – Finely chopped
Half tsp Dried Mint
Half tsp Ground Cumin
110ml Chicken Stock
200g Haloumi Cheese
2 Green Finger Chilli’s – finely chopped
3 tbsp. Chopped Parsley
6 Sheets Filo Pastry
2 tbsp. Butter – Melted
2tbsp Sesame Seeds
Oven 180C/350F/Gas 4
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil an a frying pan then add the onions. Soften the onions on a low heat for about 5 minutes until translucent then add the dried mint and cumin. Turn the heat up a little and stir until the cumin is fragrant then add the chicken, stock and season well while stirring everything together well.
Bring the stock to the boil and simmer until there is hardly any liquid remaining in the pan then remove the filling to a bowl to cool.
Dice the haloumi into small squares and add this along with the chopped chilli’s and parsley to the cooled chicken mixture and stir everything together well.
Lay out 3 sheets of filo pastry on top of each other. With a pastry brush take the melted butter and brush butter on the edges of the bottom two layers, then laying the next layer on top so they are stuck together well. Then as in the picture above spoon half of your filling in a line along the length of the pastry, leaving a few inches on the ends and edge of the pastry sheets.
Fold in your edges, brush the edge furthest from the filling with melted butter, the roll up your burek starting from the edge closest to your filling. The melted butter will stick it all together when you get to the other end. Then roll up your long sausage shape into a spiral as tightly as you can. Transfer the burek to a baking sheet, brush with more melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 10 minutes until the pastry in crisp and golden brown. Enjoy!
There’s a few things you could serve these with. I like to do them with a little bulgur wheat salad and fresh tomatoes, they are also nice with new potatoes and homemade coleslaw but really whatever you fancy they will go with!