Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Home Made Bosnian Pita: Burek and Sirnica (Phyllo Pies Filled With Meat and Cheese)

This weekend we finally made our first home made burek and sirnica from scratch.  Ivan's cousin Sinisa is a great cook and he came over to teach us how to make the dough and the filling and everything was really tasty!  We had a fun time cooking, talking and drinking beer and we hope to do it again soon.  Next time, Sinisa said that he is going to teach us how to make his special pizza from scratch. 

Pita is a very traditional dish in Bosnian and Herzegovina.  It is also made in the neighboring countries such as Croatia and Serbia.  Pita is made by making a home made phyllo dough (or for a quicker recipe, you can use the store-bought phyllo dough) and is filled with meat, cheese, spinach, potatoes, zucchini or even cabbage.  Each type of filling gives the pita a different name.  For example, pita filled with meat is called burek, with cheese is called sirnica, with spinach is called zeljanica, with potatoes is called krompirusa, etc.  It is traditionally rolled in a spiral or can be lined up straight and it is cut up into sections for serving. 

We started by making the phyllo dough first.  This is the most difficult part of the recipe and may take some practice to get it right.  If you wish, you can skip this step and just use store bought phyllo dough

Ingredients for pita phyllo dough: (Serving Size: 8)
- about 9 cups of all purpose flour
- salt (about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste)
- about 2 1/2 cups of warm water
- 1 tablespoon of oil (we used sunflower seed oil) or to taste (more oil makes the dough easier to stretch)
- clean white tablecloth to stretch the dough over it

- Put flour into a big bowl, make a small hole in the middle, like seen in the photo
- Add salt
- Add oil to the middle of flour
- Add warm water to the middle of flour
- Start to slowly mix with a wooden spoon and keep mixing until well blended
- Keep adding warm water to the middle if needed
- Dough should look similar to pizza dough

- When dough starts to form into shape, knead and form into a ball
- Take dough out of the bowl, pour some flour unto the working space and knead for a few minutes
- Cut dough into 5 smaller even pieces, knead until smooth, form into balls and then flatten them, like seen in the photos below
- Place in a separate dish, cover with some oil and let rest for about 30 minutes

Ingredients for the ground beef filling for burek:
- 3 potatoes, peeled and grated or cut into very small squares
- 3 medium onions, chopped
- 3 lb ground beef
- 2 egg yolks (you can save the egg whites for the cheese filling mix)
- 1/2 cup of milk
- Vegeta to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil (optional - if needed)

Directions for the ground beef filling for burek:
- Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and leave to rest until the dough is ready

Ingredients for the cheese filling for sirnica:
- about 1 1/2 - 2 lb of unsalted farmer's cheese, ricotta or something similar (we used a country style cheese)
- you can add some stronger cheese such as feta cheese to give it a stronger flavor (we used Mediteraneo soft cheese)
- 3 eggs (you can also add the left over egg whites that were separated from the yolks used for the meat filling)
- add a little bit of butter if you would like
- add a little bit of sour cream if you would like
- salt to taste

Directions for the cheese filling for sirnica:
- Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and leave to rest until the dough is ready

Pita Phyllo Dough Directions (Cont'd):
- After the flour has rested for about 30 minutes and you made the pita filling in the meantime, you can start with the next step of this recipe
- Put the tablecloth over the table
- Pour some flour on the working surface and on the one of the five pieces of dough and start to knead.  
- Make a ball from the dough, then flatten it and slowly start to stretch it out over the tablecloth, using a wooden rolling pin, then with your hands
- Try to make the dough as thin as possible without breaking and try to stretch it out over the entire table (if it breaks in some places, that's ok since it won't be seen when the pita is done)

- Next, start putting the filling (in this case meat filling) around the longer edges of the table, like seen in the photo below (make 2 to 3 rows of meat filling on the sides) 
- Go around the table and tear off the edges of the dough
- Pour some oil over the entire dough with filling
- Start to roll the dough on both sides by lifting the tablecloth towards the middle, like seen in the photo below (you should end up with two rolls in the middle of the table)

- Cut the dough between the two rolls with a knife, then take one roll and make it into a swirl like seen in the photos below
- Take the other roll and continue where to other roll ended, to fill a round baking dish like the one in the photo (if you are using a regular baking dish, you can use instructions on how we made sirnica to cut it and place it in a baking dish)
- Put to bake in the oven at about 250 C (or about 470 F), then after 5-10 minutes, lower the heat to about 200 C (about 400 F) and turn the baking pan occasionally and make sure the pita doesn't burn
- Pita should be done in no more than 30 minutes
- When you take it out, spray a little bit of water over it (or you can spray it with a mixture of water, little bit of oil and salt for even better results)
- Cover with a cloth and let cool

- Do the same process with the next piece of flour and fill with cheese
- If using a regular baking dish like seen in the photos below, after rolling the dough on each side of the table, cut rolls into about three parts, depending on the length of your baking dish
- Place side-to-side next to each other and repeat the same process for baking

- Repeat same process with the rest of the pieces of dough
- When done cooling, serve with yogurt or kefir
- You can put some sour cream over the sirnica (cheese pie) if you wish

- If you decide to use the store bought phyllo dough, this recipe will be much more simple and you can skip all of the steps of making the dough and stretching it over the table and can place these already made phyllo dough sheets on the tablecloth and repeat the same process with the filling, rolling, and placing in the baking dish

This dish takes time and practice to make perfect, but it is definitely worth it!  Thanks to Sinisa I now feel ready to try to make pita on my own and practice until it's perfect!  ; )

Prijatno! : )


  1. This is so home made bosnian pita. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    Fresh Meat Shop Ridgewood

  2. Thank you so much! Tried another recipe with disastrous results... This one works like a charm!!

  3. oh wow....really wishing my husband could eat gluten. This looks just amazing.

  4. Awesome blog, loved it. We shared your blog on our FB page, check us out: www.facebook.com/kekasoven - 15th Feb 2016

  5. Will this work with puff pastry?

    1. No because puff pastry just puffs up. Phyllo dough does a layering effect when it’s baked. The doughs bake differently. You need phyllo dough.

  6. Omg thank you!!!! I've been wanting to make legit Bosnian burek for forever but the internet is rife with vague instructions or incorrect versions. (My husband grew up in Sarajevo and we went there together after we were married.) Question: do you have and could you post the ingredients/method for krompirusa as well?? Thanks!