Last week I had lunch with some of my co-workers, and one of them ordered Banitsa (Accent on the first syllable) – and he told me a little about this dish.
This dish is made with phyllo dough, feta cheese and many variations from there on. There is a sweet version made with pumpkin and honey, and a more savory version with either just cheeses, or with an addition of spinach, or green onions. I was told that many Bulgarians eat this for breakfast, along with yogurt – apparently, you can also see people buying it on the street on their way to work.
There is a lot of Greek and Turkish influence in Bulgarian food, and you can see it in this dish also. It reminds me of the Turkish spiraled “spinach bareka” that you see in Israel. The frozen variety that I saw in the supermarket (now that I know what I was looking at!) looks a lot like this.
I searched for recipes on the Internet, and the recipe that I found and tried was from a site called Traditional Bulgarian Recipes from Ralitsa’s Kitchen.
So, I went to the supermarket, managed to find phyllo dough and the rest of the ingredients, and had my first try at “Traditional Bulgarian Cooking”. Tonight, Ellis and I had a traditional meal of Banitsa, “Shopska” (basically, Greek salad with Feta cheese, but without the black olives), and “Snezhanka” Salad (like the Greek yogurt and cucumber salad) and it was very good. Due to the fact that you can’t get low-fat cheese here, I probably won’t make this very often – but I’m sure that you can try substituting with low-fat cheeses with success.
So here’s the recipe that I tried – I made the spinach version.
10-12 sheets phyllo dough
200 grams grated yellow cheese (kashkaval, cheddar, parmesan – you can use only kashkaval, or add a mixture of kashkaval and the others – I added cheddar)
500 grams white cheese (Bulgarian or Feta)
100 grams butter
½ cup soda water
1 cup yogurt
Mix 6 eggs, grated butter, crumbled white cheese, grated yellow cheese and yogurt.
In a buttered pan, lay a layer of phyllo (use a couple pieces for the first layer). Spread a layer of cheese mixture, then another layer of dough and continue until all the mixture is finished – ending with a layer of dough.
Take a sharp knife, and cut portions in the pan. Take the last egg, and mix it with the soda water, and pour over the pie – making sure that all the phyllo dough is wet.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 for 40 minutes or until golden.
Spinach: Same as regular, but substitute 3 eggs with ½ kg spinach, cut and lightly sautéed – no more than 5 min.
Green onion: same as spinach, cut up 5-10 green onions (about 1 cup) and sautee for approx. 10 min.