Borek / Burek / Byrek / Pite / Rustico – Mediterranean Pies

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Warm, crispy and satisfying, filled pies are the ultimate in comfort food. Wherever you go in the Med you’ll find different versions. From Turkish Borek, Balkan Burek / Byrek / Pite and Mantija, Boureki of Greece to the Rustico of Southern Italy – fillings and shapes vary to form indulgent meaty feats, cheesy delights, simple vegetable snacks or sweet treats.  The possibilities are endless and the end result always satisfying.

It’s one of those foods which is loved; a staple from warm-hearted family kitchens or consumed from kiosks and simple eateries with mopeds whizzing by. I’ve always struggled to find the authentic stuff, reminiscent of the Med in London until I stumbled upon Akdeniz Gida Pazari on Station Road, Wood Green. For £1 a pop you can buy different types of Borek fresh out of the oven, made by the hands of two smiling Bulgarian women behind an abundantly stacked counter. Safe in the knowledge I have a place to go for a quick Borek fix, I usually prefer to make my own.

In the Balkans I  watched as women made dough from scratch, tirelessly kneading and rolling with the thinnest of rolling pins. They’d work the pastry to unbelievable elasticity, picking up the delicate sheets and stretching with careful plucks.    The pies were finished with neatly pinched pleats.  Needless to say my first attempt at this was disastrous.  To make pastry by hand is indeed a labour of love. I prefer to buy ‘Yufka’ pastry which is widely available in Mediterranean supermarkets.

Here are my Borek recipes;
Sevkiye’s Borek – Oven baked layered yufka pastry with various fillings (Meat, Cheese, Herby Courgette)

Village Style Borek – basic filo dough layered with white (feta) cheese

Pan Borek – quick borek made in pan with yufka pastry.

Mantija – Meaty Balkan parcels

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About NazarBlue

Growing up with Southern Italian roots, Turkish best friends and Arabic neighbours, life was lived around abundant tables and socialising in kitchens. A love for food and feeding was inevitable. It showed me how all people were the same regardless of language and borders – Una Faccia Una Razza! When I became engaged to a Saracen from Istanbul, his relatives not only welcomed me into their family but welcomed me into their kitchen. For me, food is love. Food personifies the people who you hold dearest and speaks of origins and affections. To cook is to create edible offerings of love. NazarBlue is concerned with Food, Travel & Photography. But by no means the regular stuff you'll find littering the Mediterranean tourist trail. No, no! I cook real food with stories behind each dish. I photograph simple things, but try to emphasis natural beauty in a moment or in a scene. And when I travel I live with families for an authentic experience and then write about my experiences of people and place alike. I crave to find the pockets of culture from the Mediterranean and beyond in this great city, London, and write about the authentic unpretentious eateries I find. I have also uploaded some flash fiction.

2 thoughts on “Borek / Burek / Byrek / Pite / Rustico – Mediterranean Pies

  1. Ciao Alexia!
    As always, you made my tummy grumble :)
    Having grown up in Turkey within a Bosnian family, borek has a special place in my heart. I grew up with weekend family get-togethers with my mom and aunties making trays of Bosnak boreks (or pitas) with every tray having different fillings; zucchini with cream, potato and mincemeat, whitecheese (aka feta) with parsley.. They would start from flour, and come up with sheets so thin, you could see their silhouettes behind it while they were throwing them hand to hand. I remember vaguely them using the kuzine (http://tinyurl.com/7bu4uyr) to bake, but their prized ovens where small aluminum drum-shaped contraptions (http://tinyurl.com/bntz3su) that required a very deft-hand to get it to bake just perfectly – they would swap trays back and forth to make sure they are baked evenly on the bottom and top. These drum-ovens were very simple but they would also break down often, and I would help my father to fix their plugs, heaters, etc. I guess that’s how I got onto the road that led me to become an engineer.

    There was one special that would be only made when there is a guest; ribitsa (very similar to mantija in your slide-show). This one is a rather cumbersome to make (as if others are not!). Small pieces of boreks with mincemeat, onion and blackpepper filling, and it should be soaked with garlic yoghurt as soon as it is out of the oven. This one is a thing of beauty; when eaten hot, it would have the texture of baklava with soft top and cruncy layers beneath. But if there is any left, it would become something else completely; the crust would have soaked all the yoghurt, the crunchiness leaves itself to a softer texture, but still with an amazing taste to have for breakfast!

    Thanks for the post and the trip to the memory lane, as they say in the States. We are not going to be able to make it to the wedding, unfortunately :( But I am sure you and your sister here will arrange something someday to bring us together, here or there, somewhere :)

    Hoscakal!
    Burak

  2. Merhaba Burak! Thank so much for your lovely comment. I really really NEED ribitsa right now.. Didn’t realise your origins were Bosnian! I would love to go to Bosnia – Mostar especially.
    All the best wishes from London for you and your family.

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