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Bulgarian banitsa

When we visited Bulgaria recently the people in whose small hotel we were staying, invited us to share a light supper - and their homemade highly alcoholic rakia!

One of the dishes our hostess served was banitsa, a traditional savoury pastry, often served at breakfast. She didn't give me the recipe because she spoke no English, and I no Bulgarian, but this is an adaptation of one I found on the internet.....

(This is her banitsa - mine was good, but hers was better!)

8 sheets fillo pastry*

1 cup cheese - I used a mixture of goat cheese and cream cheese, although she would have used fetta

2 eggs

salt to taste (use less if using fetta)

100g melted butter

1/2 cup milk**

Choose a round or square glass pyrex dish or ceramic bakeware and grease the sides and base well with melted butter.

Beat cheese, eggs, salt and milk together until well combined.

Place four sheets of fillo pastry in the buttered dish, allowing the ends to hang outside of the pan. Place each sheet at right angles for better coverage. Brush each sheet with butter if you wish, or just once when the four are in place.

Pour in half of the mixture and spread over. Top with another two sheets, the same as before, and brushing with butter, as you like.

Pour in the remaining cheese mixture and spread around. Top with the final two sheets of fillo and brush with butter, then fold in all the overlapping pieces, one by one until the dish is covered. Do not brush the top sheets with butter.

Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden. You can check to see if the banitsa is cooked by inserting a knife tip or skewer in the centre.

Cool, covered, on a rack until ready to serve. Our Bulgarian hostess served a tomato and onion salad and olives with it, but hat was in summer. In winter, when I made it, I served vegetables. The covering allows the banitsa to steam a little and soften.


* Fillo is not as tricky to work with as some people suggest. Simply unwrap the fillo and lay the stack of sheets on a dry teatowel. Work reasonably quickly so the sheets do not dry out but there is no need to hurry unduly. A few minutes should not be too long. Wrap the remaining sheets in their original wrapper and seal so no air can reach the pastry, then store in the refrigerator.

** as most cooks do, I always like to use up the tag-ends of ingredients. In this case I had a jar of Greek yoghurt that had a little left at the bottom, so I added water, shook it up and used that.


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