Burek – Bosnian Spinach & Feta Pie

By now you’ve probably heard of Croatia as one of the hidden gem destinations you need to add to your bucket list.  Croatia is admittedly wonderful, but the other countries in the Balkans deserve some love too.  Bosnia & Herzegovina in particular with its storied history, charming towns, sky high minarets, and rolling hills completely stole my heart.

Streets of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina

 Oh, and the food in Bosnia was pretty awesome too.  I traveled there with a dear friend a few years ago, and we ate ćevapčići and burek almost every single day.  Ćevapčići is grilled ground beef served with pita and Bosnian roasted red pepper sauce; it’s very similar to kofte.  And burek are delicious savory phyllo dough pies.

Bosnian Burek or Sirnica - Spinach and Cheese Pies

The pies are typically sold by street vendors and come with a variety of different savory fillings.  My personal favorite was spinach and cheese, which is called sirnica.  If you’re familiar with Greek spanakopita, this is very similar.  The distinction that makes it traditionally Bosnian is the coiling of the phyllo dough.  It creates layers in the middle that are soft and dough like but are contrasted with crispy outside layers that provide great texture.

Since Bosnian restaurants are few and far between here in Nashville, I’ve gotten pretty good at making my own burek when the craving strikes.  I make a big batch and eat about half of it straight out of the oven, whatever is left I reheat the for breakfast in the days following.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 small onion or ½ large onion, diced small
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 16 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 green onions, white and light green parts
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately
  • 1 package phyllo dough, thawed

Bosnian Burek or Sirnica - Spinach and Cheese Pies

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees.  Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and onion to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

While the onions sauté, roughly chop the spinach working in batches.  Add the spinach to the pan when the onions are done. If all the spinach won’t fit at first, wait for some to wilt down a bit before adding the rest.  Sauté until all of the spinach is wilted down (about 5 minutes) then add the green onion and sauté for a minute more.

Bosnian Burek or Sirnica - Spinach and Cheese Pies

After wilting the spinach, you’ll have a good amount of rendered liquid in your pan.  Drain this liquid by pouring the spinach mixture into a fine mesh strainer.  Press on the mixture with a back of a spoon to drain as much liquid as possible – no one wants soggy burek!  

Let the spinach cool and then add crumbled feta to the mixture.  Stir to incorporate. Next, take one of the beaten eggs and add it to the spinach and feta.  This isn’t necessarily traditional, but I like to add the egg as a binding agent for the filling – it just makes everything easier to work with.

Bosnian Burek or Sirnica - Spinach and Cheese Pies

Now it’s time to start filling the phyllo dough and shaping the pie.  Remove the phyllo dough from the packaging and cover the sheets with a damp paper towel to prevent drying out.  

Take one sheet of phyllo dough and lightly brush it with melted butter.  Take another sheet of phyllo dough and place it on top, pressing gently to bind the two pieces together.  Gently brush with melted butter to wet the dough and help prevent tearing. Spoon 1-2 tbsp of filling along the edge of the sheets.   

Bosnian Burek or Sirnica - Spinach and Cheese Pies

Roll the dough around the filling to form a long rope.  Brush with melted butter as needed along the way to prevent the phyllo dough from ripping.  Once finished, brush the outside with melted butter to wet the dough making it more pliable and roll it into a coil.  

The center coil is the hardest one since it’s so tightly curled that the phyllo dough is prone to tearing.  To combat that, I put 3-4 sheets of phyllo dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper as a base.  Then place the coils on top of those sheets so if anything tears, there is a foundation to catch it.  

Bosnian Burek or Sirnica - Spinach and Cheese Pies

Repeat the rolling and coiling process using two sheets of phyllo dough each time until there’s no more filling left, adding on to the coil each time.  If there are any edges that crack, you can easily patch them up by folding a piece of phyllo dough into a bandage of sorts and adhering that sheet to the cracked edge with melted butter, like in the photo above.    

Bosnian Burek or Sirnica - Spinach and Cheese Pies

Once the burek is finished, take the second beaten egg and brush an egg wash all over the top and sides.  This will help the phyllo dough to brown when baking.  Finish with a sprinkling of kosher salt.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops and edges are golden and crispy.  

Bosnian Burek or Sirnica - Spinach and Cheese Pies

Cut the burek into pie slabs and serve warm or at room temperature.  Top with extra feta and green onions for garnish.

Bon appétit!

Bosnian Spinach and Feta Pie

A satisfying and comforting Bosnian street food, this spinach and feta pie is perfect for a light dinner or for breakfast on the go!

Course Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion or ½ large onion diced small
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 16 oz baby spinach roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 green onions white and light green parts
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter melted
  • 2 eggs beaten separately
  • 1 package phyllo dough thawed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and onion to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.

  2. Roughly chop the spinach and add to the pan when the onions are done.  Sauté until all of the spinach is wilted down (about 5 minutes) then add the green onion and sauté for a minute more.

  3. After wilting the spinach, you’ll have a good amount of rendered liquid in your pan. Drain this liquid by pouring the spinach mixture into a fine mesh strainer. Press on the mixture with a back of a spoon to drain as much liquid as possible

  4. Let the spinach cool and then add crumbled feta to the mixture. Stir to incorporate. Next, take one of the beaten eggs and add it to the spinach and feta. 

  5. Remove the phyllo dough from the packaging and cover the sheets with a damp paper towel to prevent drying out.

  6. Take one sheet of phyllo dough and lightly brush it with melted butter. Take another sheet of phyllo dough and place it on top, pressing gently to bind the two pieces together. Gently brush with melted butter to wet the dough and help prevent tearing. 

  7. Spoon 1-2 tbsp of filling along the edge of the sheets and roll the dough around the filling to form a long rope brushing with melted butter as needed to prevent tearing.  

  8. Once finished, brush the outside with melted butter to wet the dough making it more pliable and roll it into a coil.

  9. Place 3-4 sheets of phyllo dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to form a base. Then place the coil on top of those sheets so if anything tears, there is a foundation to catch it.

  10. Repeat this process using two sheets of phyllo dough each time until there’s no more filling left, adding on to the coil each time. If there are any edges that crack, you can easily bandage them up by folding a piece of phyllo dough into a bandage of sorts and adhering that sheet to the cracked edge with melted butter

  11. Once the burek is finished, take the second beaten egg and brush an egg wash all over the top and sides. Finish with a sprinkling of kosher salt.

  12. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops and edges are golden and crispy.
  13. Cut the burek into pie slabs and serve warm or at room temperature. Top with extra feta and green onions for garnish.



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