Burek is a popular treat in Bosnia. Originating from the Ottoman Empire a thin filo-like pastry is filled with spinach and salty cheese, though sometimes meat and other fillings. On wandering the aisles of Waitrose a few weeks ago I came across small packets of round bourekia, ideal to use as canapes for a small gathering of friends.
The small green packets contain eight bourekia, filled with spinach, feta and plenty of mint making the taste a real mouth-watering explosion. They can be served hot or cold (personally I feel hot is best but if you are going to head out and enjoy a springtime picnic then cold will suffice).
Bourekia, part of the Waitrose Delicatezze range and found in the chilled aisle, £3.69
This makes an ideal starter because you can easily prepare the mushrooms and just finish off under the grill to serve to your guests. Alternatively, they make a great lunchtime or supper snack for the peckish among you. Also, this dish makes a great vegetarian dish if you omit the bacon and perhaps include some chopped chestnuts or meat substitute if you so desire.
I am a real advocate of the breadcrumb. If it wasn’t for the breadcrumb, I’d have never consumed cauliflower. The first time I tasted cauliflower was in Kranjska Gora. Mira, the Grandmother, would gently heat florets of cauliflower in some simmering water, then remove them from the water, let them cool, coat them in egg and breadcrumbs and fry. Perfect!
Kranjska Gora was also the first place I ever tried veal. Being thirteen the first time I visited (in 1999) I was actually a bit confused as to what veal was. I am not ashamed to say this. However, once I tasted it, I knew I would always be a veal lover. It is not as unkind as most people think due to media campaigns from previous decades. British veal in particular is very humane and, I’ll have you meat eaters know (cannot argue with the vegetarians and vegans among you, you have morals, I do not) that when you tuck into some lamb, it is actually killed at a younger age than veal.
A popular dish in Slovenia and Croatia, and no doubt other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, is veal escalope in a breadcrumb crust. This is such an easy dish to make!
Plain flour (with seasoning: salt and black pepper)
Put plain flour on a plate
Beat eggs and put in bowl
Put breadcrumbs on plate
Make sure veal is sufficiently flat, if not, beat with a meat hammer
Coat veal in plain flour
Dip veal into beaten egg
Dip veal into breadcrumbs
(For best results: double dip! No nothing to do with British MPs’ expenses!)
Re-dip into beaten egg
Re-dip into breadcrumbs
Heat olive oil and butter in frying pan
Put veal into pan
Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on one side
Cook for 2 to 3 minutes maximum
Serve on a bed of watercress, spinach and rocket, drizzled in olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and black pepper
Although not a country to usually pop to the forefront of one’s mind when considering notorious wine producing countries, Romania has in fact been producing wine since the 7 BC. It would shock you to put, what most would consider one of the European Union’s poorest and most backward countries, on a par with Portugal for sheer quantity of square metres of vines, but this is indeed the case.
This particular bottle hails from the town of Turnu Severin, formerly known as the ancient city of Drobeta which took its name from the tower built to commemorate the death of the Roman emperor, Septimus Sever. The cellar is run by Italian winemaker, Fiorenzo Rista, who after gaining vital experience in northern Italy, came to Romania, fell in love with a Romanian woman (now his wife) and never returned home.
The Domaine Danubiane is a crisp aromatic white produced purely from Sauvignon Blanc. The cool climate of Vanju Mare has ensured it is packed full of grassy herbal aromas, a characteristic of many East European tipples, in addition to boasting vibrant gooseberry tones and lively passion fruit flavours.
While, the Domaine Danubian Sauvignon Blanc would not suit the palette of those who prefer to drink a very dry Pinot Grigio or Chablis unaccompanied, it will prove a particularly pleasing purchase for those who desire to indulge in seafood, particularly oysters, moules marinierès or grilled white fish.
When I was in Sarajevo, a Slovene friend text me to instruct me I must do two things, buy some fake designer clothes/accessories (which, as I had been travelling for a month and had already accumulated rather a lot of luggage along the way, I did not do) and to eat some Burek (which I did with pleasure). I tend to tell people, I only go on holiday for the food, and to an extent, that really is true. The relaxation, the adventure, the shopping, the culture, the people, all come a firm second place to potential culinary exploration.
Sarajevo is a very beautiful city, although my first experience there was encountering a man try to pickpocket me while I got onto the tram at the train station. However, as many Bosnians speak English, after me announcing what he had tried to do to a packed tram of locals, he promptly got up and left before we departed the train station for the centre of town. I stayed just off Pigeon Square, right in the thick of it, surrounded by mosques and their minarets and the constant smells of baked bread and grilled meats.
One lunchtime I sat myself down at a restaurant on one of the main roads in the Old Town, not far from Pigeon Square. I diligently ordered a meat and a salty cheese and spinach burek. Both were delicious. Burek is made from a baked or fried pastry and can have various fillings. Sweet versions are also on offer.
Some months ago, while walking in Notting Hill, I noticed a sign on a window which read, “Burek £2.60”. Manzara, a small restaurant on Pembridge Road in Notting Hill, looks nothing more than a small pizzeria and patisserie, but the delights inside are something to indulge in on a Saturday afternoon after searching the treasure trove of Portobello Market. A few weeks ago, we had some rather lovely weather one weekend and as, for once, I had little to do, I popped down to Notting Hill to investigate the burek on offer.
A generous portion of spinach and cheese burek from Manzara, 24 Pembridge Road in Notting Hill, costs just £2.60.
This restaurant is actually Turkish, (burek comes from the Ottoman Empire which is why it is popular in both Turkey and Bosnia), and while I cannot speak for the rest of the menu (although the food does look good when you walk in) the burek is delicious. Unfortunately, they currently only offer spinach and cheese burek, and although the cheese is not quite as salty as the one I tasted in Sarajevo, it is perfect to munch on either wandering the streets, at home (if you can wait that long) or in their, fully-licensed, small, restaurant.