Looking for something new to cook tonight? Here's the recipe for Bosnia and Hercegovina’s favourite street food dish: burek.

A dozen burek pies cooling on a large black plate. The pies are spirals resembling a snail shell, made from pastry and containing various ingredients like meat and vegetables.
Burek originates in Turkey but is found across the Balkans and even beyond © Hein van Tonder / Getty Images

What is it?

Crisp yet moist, hearty yet subtly spiced, burek is a delicious Balkan street food. It’s savoury and filling and will fuel you through a day exploring mountain villages or market towns (or the struggles of a day spent quarantined in your house working from home).

Ingredients (serves 4)

3 onions, diced 
750g (1½lb) minced (ground) beef or lamb 
1 tbs sweet paprika 
1 tbs allspice 
½ tsp cinnamon 
4 sheets filo pastry 
¼ cup melted butter (or olive oil) 
1 beaten egg (optional)

A hand holds a triangular slice of burek aloft. The pastry is partly wrapped in a napkin.
Burek comes in many varieties but the outside must be crisp and the inside moist © Anze Furlan / Getty Images

How to cook

Step 1: Heat the oven to around 200°C (400°F).
Step 2: Fry the onions until soft and almost caramelised.
Step 3: Add the mince and fry until browned and slightly crumbly (drain off excess moisture or fat).
Step 4: Remove the pan from the heat, add the paprika, allspice and cinnamon, stir through and allow the meat mixture to cool.
Step 5: Place a single sheet of filo pastry on a bench, and brush lightly with melted butter (or olive oil).
Step 6: Spread a quarter of the meat mixture along one edge of the filo pastry.
Step 7: Roll the pastry sheet up to form a long tube enclosing the meat mixture, then twist the tube into a ‘snail shell’ spiral. Repeat three more times with the remaining ingredients.
Step 8: Brush with more butter or oil (or egg if desired) and place in oven.
Step 9: Bake for 20–30 minutes or until golden. Alternatively, use a filling of crumbled feta cheese, parsley and dill, or spinach sauteed with diced onion and dill.

An aerial view of the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Hercegovina. The view shows the old bridge, which spans the river that runs through the city, and numerous white buildings surrounding it. In the background, green mountains are visible.
The smell of baking burek is enough to transport you to the alleyways of Mostar's old town © ccr_358 / Getty Images

Tasting notes

Though burek can be eaten either hot or cold, it’s best straight from the oven. The pastry will be nicely flaky on the outside – yielding a pleasing ‘crunch’ as you bite into it – but on the inside, where it is moistened by the contents, it should be tender, with the consistency of perfectly cooked pasta. The contents should be moist, but not gooey, offsetting the crisp outer layers. Brushed with butter or olive oil, the whole affair is slightly greasy. In Bosnia and Hercegovina it is cooked in great spirals in round baking trays. Choose which variety you want, and the baker will slice it with a pizza cutter and wrap it in butcher’s paper for you

Other recipes in this series:
Irish stew
Sarawak laksa
Vietnamese pho

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Street Food.

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