If you like the idea of ‘party food’ as food that involves making the food rather than just eating it, this is the dish to go for! Last year, I had the privilege to watch two experts making filo pastry for the classic Bosnian Sirnica, and what started out as harmless fun has become a proper obsession of mine: dough pulling and rolling. It takes two people, really, to make this work best and Bosnian women will often gather to make these delicious snacks, pinching, pulling and stretching the dough across a large table whilst sharing the latest gossip. That’s what we three did, too: over a cup of coffee, we prepared this beauty:
Filo pastry is so easy to make, the secret lies in the thorough kneading: a sturdy food processor will take care of this! If you are unsure and worried, simply keep a pack or two of ready-made filo handy: check out my Spanakopita recipe to see how to use ready-made filo with a vegetable filling – it’s just as delicious but much more straightforward to make!
The filling here is one of my favourite Turkish recipes, a simple vegetable bake or börek: filled with various Mediterranean vegetables, yoghurt and feta cheese, it makes for an amazingly hearty vegetarian dish. Feel free to play around with the filling to adapt it to suit your tastes!
For the pastry:
- 600g 00-flour
- 2 tbs vegetable oil
- 2 tbs salt
- ca. 400ml water
- vegetable oil for brushing
For the filling:
- 400g vegetables, such as aubergines, courgettes, carrots and peppers, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 400g meaty tomatoes, finely diced and drained
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- a pinch of chili flakes, to taste
- 2 eggs
- 200g Greek yoghurt
- some sprigs of dill and flat-leaf parsley
- 200g feta, diced
Making the dough: Mix the ingredients in a bowl, adding water as necessary. Once the dough comes together, place it on your work surface and knead it vigorously, beating it occasionally, until smooth. This will take at least ten minutes. Keep kneading it between your two hands, using one to shape the ball against the other hand, which keeps it in place, Rotate and repeat until the surface of the ball is completely smooth. Place the dough ball into the bowl, cover it with cling film and leave it to rest for about an hour. Use the time to prepare your fillings – more of that later. After the resting period, cut the ball into two. Roll out one half to a circle the size of a small plate; place it on a sheet of oiled cling film and brush it with some more oil. Roll out the second half and place it on top of the first, oiling it and covering it with cling film and a kitchen towel, to keep it warm. Leave to rest for a further 30 minutes.
Once you have your vegetable diced and ready, preheat the oven to 180C/360F (no fan). Place the diced tomatoes in a colander or sieve and leave them to drain. In a medium pan, sauté the other vegetables with the garlic in a little olive oil. Leave to cool, then add the cumin, dill and parsley. In a small bowl, mix the eggs with the yogurt. Oil a large round baking tin (for the perfect spiral you’ll need one of around 40cm/16 in diameter) or an oven tray, using vegetable oil.
Now place a large cotton table cloth or a flat sheet on the table and sprinkle plain flour over it to make sure the pastry is not going to stick to it.
Place the dough onto the cloth and roll it out, using a rolling pin. Once it has the size of a baking sheet you can lift it up and allow it to be pulled down by its own weight, rotating it carefully to ensure it is spread evenly across the whole surface – you want to avoid a thin patch that will tear.
When you’re ready, place the pastry on the cloth and begin pulling it carefully, walking around the table as you do so. Keep pulling it and walking, holding the thick rim between your fingers and pulling it out from there.
As you keep going, the sheet will become thinner and cover more and more of the table. Keep going, always trying to reduce the thick rim. Should the sheet tear avoid aggravating the area but keep pulling the remaining dough.
You can glue it back together afterwards with a little water.In an ideal world, you’ll end up with a sheet so thin that you’ll be able to read a newspaper placed underneath it.
Cut off the remaining thick rim with a pair of scissors and get ready to fill your pie.
Filling the Pie: Lightly sprinkle oil over the surface of the pastry.
To achieve the beautiful shape of the Bosnian pies, spread the filling in two lines along the length of the pastry sheet. Start with the vegetables and tomatoes, then add the feta,
Finish with the egg and yoghurt mix.
Holding the seam of the cloth, lift it up in a quick movement to fold the edge of the pastry over the filling. Repeat on all sides.
Brush the surface of the pastry with oil (this is to keep the sheets of pastry apart, resulting in the separate layers). By gently lifting the seam of cloth you can now roll up the two sides until they form two parallel rolls along the centre of the table.
Trim the ends if necessary. Place your prepared tin beside one end and carefully lift the rolls into the tin, rotating the tin to achieve the spiral pattern. As we only had two 25cm tins we cut the rolls along the length and put them into the two separate tins.
Brush with a little oil and bake for 40-45 minutes. Leave it to cool a little before you cut it into slices – just look at those amazing patterns of the filo sheets!
I’m bringing this dish along to this week’s Fiesta Friday party over at Angie’s – I can’t wait to see who’s coming along!