Baked Albanian Spinach Pie or byrek rolls with phyllo dough, feta, and cottage cheese, the perfect party appetizer or snack.
This Albanian spinach pie or byrek rolls are just wonderful: crispy on the outside, with a soft savory filling, easy to make, and perfect for any kind of gathering.
What is byrek?
- Or borek or burek, depending on where you are.
- A byrek is filled fried or baked pastry made with phyllo or yufka dough.
- It is very popular in the Balkan area and actually throughout the former Ottoman Empire.
- It can be filled with meat, spinach, cheese or mixtures of several ingredients.
- Byrek can be baked in large baking dishes or it can be shaped as rolls or triangles.
- The smaller shaped ones are often deep-fried, especially those sold by street vendors or in restaurants.
- And if you like this kind of byrek, you will also love the Turkish borek with spinach or the Romanian pie with lots of cheese. Or this more extravagant version of a turkey and vegetable-filled burek.
What do you need?
- 3 very large sheets or enough to make 16 byrek rolls.
- As phyllo dough comes in different sizes (depending on the brand and where you buy it), I recommend just buying a package and use as much as needed.
- If you have leftovers, wrap them well, so that they do not dry out and use them to make something else during the next couple of days.
- How about a pumpkin pie with phyllo or the Serbian gibanica.
- I always use frozen spinach. Defrost the spinach and squeeze very thoroughly in your hands before adding to the filling. All the excess moisture has to be removed, otherwise, the rolls my get soggy.
- Feta, cottage cheese and smetana (typical Eastern European dairy product).
- Smetana can be replaced with crème fraiche (closest fit) or sour cream.
Other ingredients: green onions, garlic, eggs and oil.
How to shape the byrek rolls?
- Place one sheet of phyllo pastry on the working surface and brush it with oil.
- Place another sheet on top, brush again, and finish with another phyllo pastry sheet. Brush this one as well.
- Cut the phyllo sheets in order to get 16 rectangles of about 25x18 cm/10x7 inches. If your pastry sheets are not large enough for you to get 16 pieces, repeat the procedure with another 3 sheets of pastry.
- Place one heaped tablespoon of the filling on the lower side of each rectangle. Fold the sides over the filling and roll the pastry starting on the lower side.
- Place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with baking paper with the seam facing down.
- Brush the rolls with oil as well.
Albanian Spinach Pie (Byrek Rolls)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 green onions
- 450 g/12.8 oz frozen spinach
- 2 garlic cloves
- 250 g/7 oz feta from a block, not already crumbled
- 225 g/8 oz/1 cup cottage cheese
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ scant ½ cup smetana or crème fraiche
- 2 small eggs
- fine sea salt and pepper
- 1 packet phyllo dough Note
- about 4-5 tablespoons olive oil as needed for brushing
- Defrost the spinach and squeeze it very well to remove the excess moisture. Preheat the oven: 200 degrees Celsius/400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Chop the onions very finely and cook them in 1 tablespoon olive oil for a couple of minutes.
- Mix the onions, spinach, grated garlic cloves, crumbled feta cheese, cottage cheese, smetana/creme fraiche and eggs very well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Place one sheet of phyllo pastry on the working surface. Brush it with oil. Place another sheet on top, brush it as well, and finish with another phyllo pastry sheet. Brush this one as well. Cut the phyllo sheets in order to get 16 rectangles of about 25x18 cm/10x7 inches.
- Place one heaped tablespoon of the filling on the lower side of each rectangle. Fold the long sides over the filling and roll the pastry starting on the lower side. Place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with baking paper with the seam facing down. Brush the rolls with the remaining oil.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cover the rolls loosely with aluminum foil after half the time if they seem to get too dark.