Say “cheese” and enjoy this Saturday with our new I·ATE Food Term of the week, which is dedicated to white cheese and phyllo pastry all-day snacks!
Have you ever heard of banitza, greek tyropita, gibanica or turkish börek? And what about some geography and history related to these recipes? Well, in any case today we will try briefly to pass this insight to you with lots of savory details!
In general, all these recipes include phyllo pastry with cheese in layers often combined with additional layers of various other fillings, like spinach, herbs or meat. In the cuisines of the Balkans, Anatolia, and the Eastern Mediterranean this white cheese filled pastry is a common dish which it likely shares a common ancestry in the pastry dishes of the region, and the cuisines of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
Starting from Bulgaria, we introduce you to banitza or banitsa (баница). It is a specialty that is traditionally eaten for breakfast but can also easily be a fullfilling lunch with some green salad! Traditionally it is served during Christmas dinner and on that occasion, a coin is hidden (similar to Galette des Rois in France) ensuring a prosperous year for the one who finds it. The original recipe is prepared with phyllo pastry and the bulgarian cheese sirene (or greek feta), but there are also many variations with spinach, squash, pumpkin, cabbage or meat. In banitza, yogurt and, sometimes, baking soda are added.
Next stop: Greece and the greek tyropita. In Greece, tyropita is a popular breakfast snack with coffee or orange juice as a must-have companion. The original recipe needs the phyllo pastry to be thick and homemade, with extra virgin olive oil and the filling only with feta cheese and eggs. As eating tradition and now a basic characteristic of Greece’s gastronomic culture, according to the researcher’s Artemidorus discriptions of Ancient Greek eating habbits, it has its origins back to the golden age of Pericles where tetiromeni plakountes (τετυρωμένοι πλακούντες), thick dough filled with white cheese of the times, were served as snack during Agora or Theater time. The years passed, and this practical snack became the favorite dish of shepherds! It developed a lot over the centuries because it accommodates the shepherd’s itinerant lifestyle and it could be made in the makeshift ovens that shepherd families always carried with them; it could be made with ingredients that always had on hand or could find easily—either wheat flour or corn meal, cheese, butter, greens; it keeps well for several days without refrigeration, especially in cool mountain climes; it is portable.
We cannot forget of course gibanica and its popular serbian and slovenian versions. This cheese pie version, can be made with strudel dough or phyllo dough and the cheese varies from dry curd cheese, to full-fat cottage cheese, to feta cheese and others. For Slovenians also, the version is mostly sweet! It includes apples, walnuts, poppyseeds and cheese, and is known as prekmurska gibanica, made famous in the town of Murska Sobota in the Prekmurje region.
In Turkey, the layered pies and pastries are called börek! Layers of yufka or phyllo pastry are used and crumbled turkish white cheese, reduced salt Feta, or crumbly goat cheese consist the feeling, with eggs and milk added instead of yogurt. Herbes and sesame are oftenly used for garnishing or extra taste!
And in your country? In your region? Do you have similar cheese recipes? If yes, how do you call it?
Have a nice weekend and always delicious discoveries!
Written by Katerina Palamioti, Translator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee and Foodie at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.
Bulgaria: Banitsa. Available at: http://bit.ly/2oSlBLe (Accessed at: 28/04/2017)
Tiropita (Greek Cheese Pies). Available at: http://bit.ly/2prH1AE (Accessed at: 28/04/2017)
All about Gibanica. Available at: http://abt.cm/2pIqGdZ (Accessed at: 28/04/2017)
Layered Cheese Pie Is Called ‘Börek’. Available at: http://bit.ly/2qpFURy (Accessed at: 28/04/2017)
Phyllo or Filo, the Greek Pastry Sheets | Greek Food – Greek Cooking – Greek Recipes by Diane Kochilas. Available at: http://bit.ly/2prMJCw (Accessed at: 28/04/2017)
Οιδιπορικό Γεύσεων. Available at: http://bit.ly/2pfSaGt (Accessed at: 28/04/2017)