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Saturday, August 17, 2013 continental childhood favourite

When I was young my family lived in the very continental Melbourne suburb of Yarraville.  By continental I mean that there were many European food sellers that had opened up shop in the town’s main shopping strip.  There was a small Greek sweet shop – this was where I got to experience “death by sugar syrup” for the first time in the various baklava and sugary pastries.  A short stroll down was a “continental” bakery where Vienna bread and baguettes were always so soft and delicious when paired with some Polish sausage from the butchers.  One of my favourite Yarraville delicacies would have to be from another café style bakery near the station.  I sadly cannot even remember their country of origin, but I suspect it was Croatian or Macedonian based on their preparation of the best Burek I had tasted - by the age of 10 anyways! 
There was always something about the crispy filo pastry up top that just gave way when you bit into them and then you were on to the next layer which would be soft pastry dotted with spiced mince. It all ends with the pastry base which once again was crunchy and buttery, leaving shards of golden pastry all over the place.  Satisfaction was always painted on the faces of anyone who ate these delectable delights and appreciation was always represented by the mess of pastry crumbs on your cheeks and on the front of your clothes.
I don’t live near Yarraville anymore and on a recent drive through the main street, I am certain the café bakery is no longer there.  I have located a delicatessen in my area that does fresh hot Burek and I try to get in early on a Saturday to pick up my smallgoods and cheeses and secure myself a slice of their Burek.  I have to admit that theirs is not as special as the Yarraville one from so many years ago but without much choice of Burek alernatives, I cannot complain.  
I was most disappointed one morning when I was at the delicatessen and was told they were out of Burek and wouldn’t have any until the following week.  It had been a while between Bureks and I definitely had a hankering.  There was only one place nearby where I could guarantee some Burek – my kitchen! So with filo pastry, butter and minced meat in tow, I headed home to try my hand at a childhood favourite.
1 packet x Filo Pastry
300g x Lamb mince
250g x Butter, melted
1tbsp x Olive oil
1 x Onion, finely diced
2 clove x Garlic, crushed
1tsp x Allspice powder
1tsp x Paprika (Sweet or Hot. You choose!)
¼tsp x Cinnamon powder
½tsp x Salt
1tsp x Nigella seeds
To prepare the mince mixture heat the olive oil in a frypan and add the onion cooking until soft
Add the lamb mince and fry gently stirring to ensure there is no more pink
Now add the garlic and powdered spices folding through to combine all the ingredients
Turn the heat up a little and cook the mince to a nice dark brown, adjust seasoning if required, remove from heat and allow to cool completely
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
Prepare the filo by placing the entire packet’s contents between two damp kitchen towels
Use a metal pie dish or deep oven pan and butter the base and sides generously 
Place a sheet of filo pastry inside the pan tucking the excess evenly around
Use a pastry brush to paint the pastry with a splash of melted butter then add another layer of pastry
Repeat until you have used seven sheets of pastry then add half of the cooled mince mixture in one even layer
Repeat the seven pastry sheet process followed by a layer of the remaining mince mixture
Finish with another seven layers of the pastry 
Paint a generous splash of butter onto the top filo pastry layer
Sprinkle the nigella seeds over the melted butter
Place the pan into the freezer for 15 minutes then remove and cut into the desired serving slices
Do not cut all the way through to the bottom of the pastry, you need only go two thirds of the way
Place the pan into the preheated oven and cook for 40 minutes keeping an eye on the top layer to ensure that it does not burn.  You may cover with baking paper if it is browning too much
Once ready, slice the Burek into the preformed pieces and serve