A good friend’s mother makes the most delicious Serbian (wait, ‘Joego’) dishes, and on Maki’s birthday party last winter, we were all extremely excited about a plate of börek. It was a large pie, build up out of layers filo dough, filled with creamy feta cheese and sliced into very pretty rectangles that didn’t fall apart when picked up. To make a long story (and very empty plate) short, I just placed myself next to the happchen table and happily nibbled along with our friend Katharina.
I couldn’t like her more for saying: yeahh awesome, but I think there could be more cheese in this. Well, with that a mission was born and I have been on the search for a creamy, crispy, cheesy filo dough börek.
I must admit that this project was not as easy as the endearingly simple concept might sound. Getting all the proportions right without either overdoing on the cheese or the dough has taken some time. Along the way I have come across flaky, tearing filo dough that barely held up, even in the package (I am looking at you frozen supermarket pastry section!), and it took me a while to realise that the filling needs some creme fraiche or yoghurt to smooth it out and to mellow the taste of the pungent feta cheese, as well as eggs to hold it up. Nevertheless, last weekend I finally found the one börek I was looking for. It is a far cry from an authentic börek, but it is very tasty and makes a good party snack. Plus, considering the mission, there is plenty of cheese in there.
I have been lucky enough to find a Mediterranean supermarket here in Frankfurt Ost that stocks up on fresh (!) filo dough in different shapes and sizes. The sheets are incredibly sturdy and easy to handle. I have gotten to like the cake wedge shaped ones, as they fit into any baking pan very well. It is well worth a search, but in case you can’t get your hands on something comparable, just try a bit of patience with the super market sheets, it will all come together after spending some time in a hot oven (and a good sprinkle of olive oil).
Filo dough pie
- 150 grams of filo dough sheets
- 300 – 400 grams of feta cheese (preferrably good quality, soft one)
- 75 grams of creme fraiche (or yoghurt)
- 3 eggs
- tablespoon of mild mustard
- 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
- thick bundles of chives, dill and / or parsley
- a little of thyme, rosemary and a few stalks of mint, all finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
- olive oil to sprinkle
Sprinkle some olive oil in your baking pan before layering the filo dough into it, as it helps crisping up your dough, as well as preventing the dough from drying out. In case your dough is particularly dry, you can also consider to wet your hands before handling it, to smooth all out. Don’t worry about your dough tearing, just try to make a patchwork out of it.
For the filling, crumble the feta, mix in the herbs, black pepper and stir in the yoghurt and eggs.
Feel free to adjust the amounts of herbs, as well as the ratio of yoghurt / eggs and cheese as the feta cheese tend to differ in density or smoothness. Pour the filling into the covered form and close as much as possible with the overlapping filo sheets. Sprinkle with some olive oil and bake in a moderately hot oven, on 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes (but keep a close eye on it as the filo dough easily browns).
I like to keep a part of the pie open, to showcase the beautiful filling. More authentic (however, less photo genetic), is to cover the top of the ‘börek’, this will also be more practical to serve in small bites on let’s say a birthday party. Either ways it will taste fantastic.