Burek: stories from Croatia, Turkey, and my English kitchen

I’ve always loved burek. It was my favourite lunch treat at school. I used to have cheese burek with plain, and my best friend with strawberry yoghurt. We’d sit in the parks near our school and look at the sea. Surprised that a kid from Croatia lunches on what is by all accounts a Middle Eastern treat? Don’t be. Burek is firmly part of the eating tradition in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, a legacy of the Ottoman Empire. DSC_6413

DSC_6408   If you are yet to be introduced to this deliciousness, burek is layers of thin thin pastry, filo-like but somewhat thicker, stuffed with a variety of fillings. Cheese, meat, spinach, potatoes – these are just some of the examples. In our parts, there is even a sweet version stuffed with grated apples, probably a playful offspring of the Ottoman burek and the Central European apple strudel. To a Croatian, a burek is any of the afore-mentioned; to a Bosnian, burek is only the one made with meat, all others are simply pies (pite, or pita singular). Here bureks normally come in coils, or layered in trays (tepsije – probably from the Turkish tepsi). In Turkey, burek or börek comes in all shapes (cigars, triangles, coils, envelopes, layered larger pies, etc.), and is both baked and boiled. It is made with the thin yufka dough, or even with puff pastry.

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My First Beef and Ale Pie

… is simmering on the hob right now. Can you smell it? There’s a fantastic aroma of beef, ale and mushrooms, with notes of Worcestershire sauce, emanating from the kitchen! Yes, this is my first beef and ale pie. No, it’s actually my first pie ever! …. Oooops actually – no. I did make a shepherd’s pie once or twice, very successfully, if I may add! It was delicious! 🙂 However, I’ve never made a pie with pastry, my own pastry. This is what I’m attempting to do now – make my own pie pastry, as well as the pie filling!

I must admit I was feeling pretty nervous before attempting it. Yes, I like pie, but what else do I know about it, apart from that? – Well, absolutely nothing! But, married to a Brit, I was bound to have to learn how to make one! Plus, it’s his birthday soon, so it’s time to be a good wife – for once! he he! It will make a nice surprise – hopefully!

As for my pie, so far, so good! The filling is simmering happily on the hob, smelling and tasting delicious! I guess the pastry will be the real challenge, since I know I can make a stew (for god’s sake!)! So because it tastes good, I decided to share the recipe with you. The photos will come later, together with my final verdict. I’ll also let you know about my fortunes with pastry making.

The recipe comes from The Dairy Book of British Food, but I adapted it slightly. I’m using a recipe for steak and kidney pie, minus the kidney. Not because I don’t like/won’t cook kidney, but simply because I don’t have any!

The book I’m using has over 400 recipes for every occasion. It contains chapters on regional food, describing the local dishes and produce, and lists annual food fairs and festivals. This recipe comes from the North of England, where the food is “based on dishes suitable for a hard-working community living in a bracing climate” (pg. 56). According the my book, oysters were originally used to flavour the dish, instead of mushrooms, which were the more expensive ingredient at the time. Times have changed considerably, definitely! I would love to know when the dish was first made.

Here’s the recipe! Stay tuned for pastry cronicles, pics and verdicts!

At the moment, it has a lovely dark brown hue and some gorgeous thick gravy that tastes delicious! Perfect for dipping bread in! – Did I say anything about dipping bread? Shhh, don’t tell my husband!

Actually, the recipe is coming later! The time has come – to make the wretched pastry!

Update 2o October: See below for verdict!

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Beef and Ale Pie

 

 

SOURCE: adapted from The Dairy Book of British Food

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min for the filling, 10 – 20* min for the pastry

COOKING TIME: about 1h 30 min for the filling, + 30 – 45 min for the whole pie

CUISINE: British – a dish from the North

SERVES: 3 – 4 

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the filling:

15 g flour

500 g diced beef

1 tbsp butter

1 large onion

1 clove of garlic

85 g mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms) (See note 1)

200 ml beef stock (See note 2)

200 ml brown ale (I used Theakston Old Peculiar)

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (See note 3)

1 tbsp tomato puree (See note 4)

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)

 

For the pastry:

200 g flour

100 g butter, chilled and diced

salt

 

METHOD:

Making the filling: :

  •  Sieve and season the flour. Toss the beef in the flour, shake the excess and set aside.

  • Fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the butter, until the onions become translucent.

  • Add the beef, and brown.

  • Add all the other ingredients, and simmer gently for about 1 h 15 min. I used too much stock, so I had to leave it uncovered to reduce the liquid. The filling needs to be fairly dry, otherwise it will leak.

Making the pastry:

  • Sieve the flour and stir in diced butter. Rub the butter and flour until the mixture starts resembling to fine bread crumbs. Then, add 60 ml of cold water to form a dough. Mix until the dough is formed.

  • Divide the pastry in to two parts – one smaller and the other larger. Roll them out to fit your pie dish on a lightly floured surface. Rub flour into your rolling pin** to stop the dough from sticking to it.

Assembling the pie:

  • Roll the larger piece of dough gently on your rolling pin, and carry it over to your pie dish. Unroll the pastry over the pie dish, and put the dough inside the dish. Gently press the edges for the pastry to fit the dish.
  • Spoon the pie filling inside the dough.
  • Take a little water and brush the edge of the pastry. Then, put the ‘lid’, i.e. the other piece of dough, on top, and press lightly to seal the edges.
  • If you have some leftover dough, make some shapes and stick them on top of the lid. I had loads of dough left, and I made some leaves.
  • Brush the surface with a little milk. This gives the pie a lovely glaze.
  • Put in the oven at 200 C (Gas mark 6 / 400 F) for 30 – 45 min. That’s it! We’re having it with some mashed potatoes, parsnips, boiled carrots and peas!

* Probably less if you know what you’re doing, so that’s unlike me!

** Shame on you all you dirty-minded people! Like me… ehm…  

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Our eclectic dinner. With beers of course!

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Verdict

Delicious! Both hot and cold. We both loved it! And…. I managed to produce a perfectly edible, functional pastry that didn’t leak, didn’t break, and it did taste good! Wow! – And it was so easy! I really loved the golden colour of the pastry!

 I amazed myself completely! I really thought making n’ rolling the pastry would be more difficult, but it really wasn’t! It was very easy and fairly quick to make. Rubbing flour and butter is a little tedious, but it was well worth it! I’m not a pastry wimp anymore! Yeay! Ok, maybe a bit, but definitely less so than before! 😀

I’ll be making this again, so here are a few cooking notes.

Notes

1. You can use a bit more mushrooms if you want it more mushroomy. If you like it meaty, like I do, don’t!

2. I think I used too much stock. It was rather watery to start with, but of course, after 1.30 h of cooking, it reduced nicely. Next time I’ll replace some of the stock with more ale! 😉

3. Can do with a bit more Worcestershire sauce.

4. Definitely less tomato puree – 1/2 tbsp next time. Perhaps even less, or none. You see, I like my pies meaty! However, if you’re making the filling as a stew only, then it’s fine.

– It’s quite filling, so bear that in mind!

Suggestion

Make the filling only and serve it as a stew!

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I’m sending this post over to Susan at Well-seasoned Cook who is hosting this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging! This recipe features thyme and bay leaf, both of which I grow myself!

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Other British recipes on this blog:

 

Date and nut loaf

 

Rhubarb Crumble

 

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