Bosnian breakfast

May 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

Looking at the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was taken aback by how familiar the names some of the larger towns were – Banja Luka once known for its tree-lined boulevards, Mostar similarly for its iconic bridge and the cultured and elegant capital city of Sarajevo. An unfortunate legacy of the Bosnian war of the 1990s is that all these cities are now best known for the war atrocities committed there.

April 2012 was the 20th anniversary of the start of the Siege of Sarajevo which lasted from 1992 until almost 4 years later, 29 February 1996, the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. This added a certain resonance to our breakfast.

On the menu was the ultimate Bosnian street food, burek, written about most engagingly here

Burek, a savoury filling encased in paper thin pastry is known across Eastern Europe and around the Mediterranean under various names – börek, bourek, böregi, bouréki, a legacy of the Ottoman empire. The Turks occupied Bosnia for more than 400 years (1463-1878) and their legacy remains many ways including their food.

Emigré Bosnians yearn for a dollop of kajmak a Balkan version of clotted cream cheese to serve alongside their burek. If you fancy having a go, the instructions here look admirably detailed. We cheated and ate our burek with a spoonful of thick plain yoghurt instead.

I give the full burek recipe below though I chose not to make my own filo/strudel pastry on this occasion.

Preparing the meat filling is a simple job if you use a food processor. It comprises minced beef, onion, a liberal quantity of paprika and beaten egg to hold it all together.

Making the burek is a little bit like creating an enormous sausage roll:

The next step is coiling up the roll ready to bake:

One baked the burek are best cooled on a rack to avoid a soggy bottom:

Finally the burek is sliced and ready to eat.

Recipe for Bosanski burek

Adapted from this recipe

I chose not to make my own filo/strudel pastry as the original recipe suggests. Instead I bought a pack of ready made filo. Jus-rol brand is readily available in UK shops and a pack of pastry contains 6 sheets and weighs 270g.

The recipe makes 3 medium sized burek rolls like the ones in my pictures above.


6 sheets filo pastry, 2 per burek, fully defrosted if using frozen pastry
approx. 50g melted butter

For the filling

600g lean minced beef
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large egg, beaten
1 and 1/2 tablespoons paprika (mild)
salt and pepper

Begin by making the simple filling. Put all the filling ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined and the mixture is very finely chopped but not reduced to a mulch with no texture. If you prefer not to use a food processor, make sure the onions are very finely chopped or even grated and mix all the ingredients together thoroughly in a large bowl using a wooden spoon or your hands. Set the prepared filling aside.

Next, get everything ready to shape and bake the bureks. Make sure your melted butter has cooled a little and that you have a pastry brush to hand. Lay out your pastry and workboard and have either a clean damp teatowel or some clingfilm to hand to cover the filo you’re not working with. Line three baking sheets with baking parchment, one for each burek. Finally, preheat your oven to 170 degrees C (fan). You need to be organised before you begin as the filos sheets are so thin that they dry out very quickly and crack and become difficult to roll up unless you keep them covered.

Spread one filo sheet onto your pastry board, long side facing you ie landscape rather than portrait orientation. Brush it liberally with melted butter. Lay a second sheet the same way partly overlapping first one by about one third. Brush this one with melted butter too.

Take one third of the filling and, leaving a 7cm border at the top and a 3cm border at each end, spread it out in a long rough sausage shape. Fold over the top border and continue rolling up into a long sausage roll shape. Pinch the ends to seal, brush the roll with melted butter and coil it into a rough spiral. Lift gently and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Complete the other two bureks in the same way.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

My top 5 Parisian pâtisserie trends

May 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

During April’s trip to Paris to brush up my pâtisserie skills at Lenôtre’s École des Amateurs, I took the opportunity to wander the streets, gaze into the shop windows, read the magazines and do a little tasting. I’ve distilled this into my take on the latest pâtisserie trends.

Trend 1: Choux puffs

Move over macarons, choux puffs are set to be the latest small cake trend, or so young entrepreneur Lauren Koumetz hopes. She set up her boutique bakery named Popelini in the Marais district last year. Cannily, the tiny patisserie selling just choux puffs is just across the road from world-famous bakery Poilâne’s newest outlet in the rue Debelleyme (see my previous post). Eagle-eyed viewers will have seen Rachel Khoo popping into the shop in Episode 2 of her recent BBC 2 series “Little Paris Kitchen”.

The concept is simple – take a choux pastry puff, fill it with flavoured crème pâtissière and top it with a disc of prettily coloured fondant icing. The appearance of these choux puffs and their flavour combinations clearly owes a lot to the macaron trend, and indeed the pastry chef at Popelini, Alice Barday, is ex- Ladurée.

There are 9 classic flavours in the current range – these include dark chocolate, lemon, salted caramel, pistachio/griottine (more on this one later) – plus an ever changing ‘flavour of the day’.

Trend 2: Pistachios

The love affair with the pistachio nut goes on and on. It must have something to do with their intriguing green colour as well as their delicate flavour. In the on-trend pâtisseries, every classic tart or entremet traditionally prepared with ground almonds has been reinvented with pistachios. The pairing of griottine cherries (morello cherries preserved in kirsch) with pistachios, whether in the filling for a choux puff (see above) or in a frangipane tart is increasingly popular.

There’s even a shop, La Pistacherie, which opened in mid 2011, devoted to the pistachio nut in all its forms on the Rue Rambuteau just around the corner from Beaubourg, the Pompidou Centre:

Trend 3: citrus

Forget familiar lemon and orange, now it’s got to be mandarin, grapefruit (ideally delicate pink grapefruit), or more exotically still bergamot or the Japanese favourite yuzu. The Japanese are avid buyers of French pâtisserie – just look at the big names that have opened up branches in Tokyo – and are in turn bringing their influence to bear – the green tea powder matcha is found flavouring all sorts of cakes and biscuits now. The tart, aromatic yuzu described in flavour terms as being similar to the grapefruit and mandarin is very popular in Japan but sadly well nigh impossible to get hold of in the UK. I have seen prepacked juice available for sale in specialist Japanese stores so maybe the fresh fruit is on its way.

Not strictly citrus, but the herb lemon-thyme is popping up all over the place whether perking up emigré pâtissier Eric Lanlard’s lemon cake or adorning a Pain de Sucre (see below) fig tart.

Trend 4: all things American

Parisians have fallen in love with brownies (charmingly pronounced as ‘brew-neez’), luscious cheesecake and simple-to-make pound cakes and muffins and have made them their own. You’ll find them everywhere now – peeking out of chi-chi pâtisserie windows and on sale to grab and go as you pass through the Gare du Nord or wherever. On-trend boulangerie-pâtisserie Huré on the rue Rambuteau has an enticing display of American-inpsired loaf cakes in the window with flavours such as white chocolate and cranberry and pecan to the fore.

Trend 5: Classics reinvented

A step further down the rue Rambuteau and you’ll find Pain de Sucre (‘sugarloaf’), one of Paris’ hottest establishments, regularly featuring on top 10 lists of Paris’ best pâtisseries. Renowned for its flavoured breads, oversized jars of pastel-coloured marshmallows, reinvented classics abound here. Its rum baba, renamed ‘Le Baobab’ is sold complete with miniature pharmacist’s dropper of rum to allow for dosing of alcohol just the way you want it.

It’s not just in Pain de Sucre that you’ll find classics reinvented. The space age showroom featured in several episodes of the BBC 2 programme “Little Paris Kitchen” is Philippe Conticini’s “Pâtisserie des Rêves” (Pâtisserie of Dreams). Rachel Khoo, the chef within the Little Paris Kitchen is shown admiring a reinvented chocolate éclair, a sculpted beauty almost unrecognisable as an éclair displayed like an artwork beneath its own glass dome. You can find pictures of it plus detailed tasting notes here.

Places like this lead the way, but everywhere you’ll find classic large cakes like the gâteaux Opéra or St Honoré reinvented either as small individual with sophisticated pared-down decoration. The mini Opéras will sport a lacquered chocolate glaze, as dark and shiny as a Steinway grand piano, ornamented only by a shred of pure gold leaf. Alternatively, classic cakes can be miniaturised and given a new flavour twist like Ladurée’s billowy pink raspberry and rose miniature St Honoré. You can see this here. My last two links are to US citizen Adam’s beautifully obsessive blog dedicated, as the name suggests to all things sweet in Paris – you couldn’t find a better starting point if you were planning a food-based trip to the French capital.

As the French are voting for a new president today, I’m going to sign off with a French joke. I suspect it may be the last we hear of Sarko for some time:

Q: What is Nicolas Sarkozy’s favourite cake?

A: Brownie (pronounced like ‘Bruni’ in French!)

Contact details

29, rue Debelleyme
Paris 75003

Tel +33 (0)1 44 61 31 44

Opening hours – check website but currently Tuesday to Saturday 11.00 to 19.30; Sunday 10.00 to 15.00

La Pistacherie (website still under construction at time of writing)
67, rue Rambuteau
Paris 75004

Tel +33 (0)1 42 78 84 55

Opening hours “every day of the week”

18, rue Rambuteau
Paris 75003

Tel +33 (0)1 42 72 32 18

Pain de Sucre

Rue Rambuteau
Paris 75003

Tel +33 (0)1 45 74 68 92

Opening hours: 10.00 – 20.00 closed Tuesday and Wednesday

La Pâtisserie des Rêves

93 rue du Bac
Paris 75007

Tel +33 (0)1 42 84 00 82

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 9.00 – 20.00; Sunday 9.00 – 16.00

111 rue de Longchamp
Paris 750016

Tel +33 (0)1 47 04 00 24

Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 10.00 – 20.00; Saturday and Sunday 9.00 – 20.00

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