Byrek, or as we would pronounce it, Burek, is a staple in the Albanian diet. It is served in homes as a main meal and you can also buy it from a number of fast food restaurants. Basically it is made with several layers of phyllo dough, thinly rolled by hand, stuffed with either spinach, eggs & cheese or meat. I have read that there is also a pumpkin variety but I have yet to find it. Our first experience eating byrek was the homemade version. Ilya sent home a care package including raki, olives, olive oil and some of Fetia’s “byrek me spinaq.” After eating it we wanted to learn how to make it.
Our first lesson was at Ilya’s and Fetia’s house where she showed us how to roll each slice of dough one by one. The next step was to get our own byrek making supplies. We picked up a skinny rolling pin and a large, round baking dish from the bazaar. Second lesson was the eggs and cheese version with Natasha. This time I got to see how the dough was made. Our last lesson was this weekend when Fetia came over to show us how to make it from the beginning to end. Dan and I both tried giving the dough a roll. Looks a lot easier than it is! This time she made it with wild greens and mint.
After so many viewings of watching byrek being made, I decided it was time to give it a whirl. I made the dough and started rolling however my pieces were not very round nor did I get them big enough to fit the pan. So instead I made a smaller first version of byrek with wild greens and fresh mint. Not too bad for my first try! Rolling that dough is going to take a lot of practice.
Note: After eating all of this Albanian style food I started researching whether you can find anything like it in Calgary. For those of you who are interested in trying out some byrek check out the European Bakery and Deli located at 515, 17th Avenue SW. I guess they are on the ground floor of an apartment building and a little difficult to spot. If you do try some there please let us know!
There is also a Euro Pastry shop who makes Byrek in the SE and they are also at the Crossroads Market from June-Nov.