Getting the lowdown on Serbian food and making gibanica (cheese pie)
My adventures in Serbian food started with a pie, which is not a bad place to start on a cold January afternoon. My cooking partner, Mili, was on hand with instructions on how to make the pie and to share her knowledge about Serbian cuisine.
Serbian food reflects a mix of influences including Mediterranean, European and Turkish cuisines. It is rich with variety, you will find colourful salads, grilled meats, local cheeses and an array of dips and spreads. All of these appeal to my appetite and felt already so familiar as there are many similarities to Greek and Turkish dishes.
Meze is popular in Serbia, which is a great as you can try a little bit of many different things. To give you a flavour, these can range from peppers stuffed with cheese, sarma, stuffed cabbage leaf filled with minced meat, cevapi, minced meat kebabs served in flatbreads with chopped onions and kajmak, similar to clotted cream.
Paprika is used in many recipes such as the spiced spread, urnebes and ajvar, a red pepper spread. We have to mention the decadent desserts from fruit filled strudels to baklava oozing syrup and scattered with nuts.
Mili shared how the local markets have great organic produce as a standard, seasonal food is very important and with the good climate harvests are generally plentiful. You are guaranteed to eat well and Serbians are hospitable people, so you’ll be welcomed with food…frequently…from little meze dishes, hearty soups to pastries.
To get a taste of Serbian food we decided to make gibanica as this was one of the first dishes I read about when I was looking into Serbian cuisine. This is a traditional cheese pie made with layers of filo pastry, cheese (we used feta), eggs, yoghurt and olive oil. It’s proper hearty comfort food. I want to try out more Serbian dishes over the next few months, so look out for more blog posts to see how I get on.
Gibanica (Serbian cheese pie)
Ingredients (serves 4 generously)
2 x feta cheese 200g, crumbled
4 tablespoons yoghurt
100ml olive oil
100ml soda water
1 x 500g pack of filo
Sesame seeds for scattering over the pie.
**The ingredients were bought from Ozmens, you can probably get any of these from your local high street shop or supermarket.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
In a bowl crumble the feta into small pieces together with the yoghurt, add the eggs and gently beat with a fork (or whisk) until it is evenly mixed together. Add in the oil and water seasoned with salt. It will be be quite runny, this is fine.
At this point Bob (my border terrier) was looking very intently as us waiting for some cheese to drop on the floor!
Grease your glass baking dish with a little oil and cover the base with one layer of filo pastry, then onto the fun bit where you can get hands on.
Take one piece of filo, crumple it into the cheese mixture until well coated, squeeze to get rid of some of the excess moisture and place your ‘crumpled’ pastry into the corner of the dish and repeat. You should then have a dish filled with parcels of crumpled pastry coated in cheese. It won’t look pretty but trust me this works.
Scatter over some sesame seeds then put into the oven for 40-45 minutes until it has risen and is golden brown.
Serve immediately with chopped fresh tomatoes on the side.