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Zelnik (Balkan filo pastry pie)

by Victoria Glass
Zelnik Recipe

Zelnik (Balkan filo pastry pie)

  • Main
  • medium
  • Serves 4
  • 2 hours

PT2H

Why not try?

All pie is good in my book, but this pie is extra special. Not only is it the shape of a Cumberland sausage, but it also boasts numerous layers of homemade filo pastry. Yes, that’s right, homemade filo pastry.

You would be forgiven for thinking life’s too short for such painstaking tasks, but bear with me. I’ll admit, it would probably be fair to say you have too much time on your hands if you can afford to make homemade filo a weekly staple, but it’s sometimes nice to spend longer than 20 minutes knocking up something quickly in the kitchen. It can be therapeutic to take your time. I rolled this dough while watching the tennis. In fact, it’s the perfect activity to take on while indulging in guilty pleasures like watching telly or singing along to your favourite LP in the daytime. It really soothes the mind to engage in simple and repetitive action like the rolling of dough. And the flavour really is worth the effort. Homemade filo is never going to be quite as thin as shop bought, but the difference in texture from a more rustic roll feels right for this roly-poly pie.

You can, of course, buy ready-made filo, if you must, but I think you ought to try making it yourself at least once first. As for the filling, you can sing your own tune. It’s delicious with a simple concoction of sautéed onion, garlic and spinach with a few lumps of feta crumbled in for good measure. Minced lamb or pork with cabbage makes for a filling and robust pie and you can even add potatoes or rice for extra and economical bulk. As far as I’m concerned, you can never go wrong with bacon and leeks as a base and I love to serve it with a simple salad. It’s best to leave the pie for 15–20 minutes after it’s come out of the oven, as the flavours are best when it’s not piping hot.

Ingredients

Metric

Imperial

1
To begin, sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the vinegar, salt, oil and half of the water and mix together with a fork until it starts to come together. Add as much of the remaining water as you need to make a dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface
2
Knead for a few minutes until you have a soft, but not sticky dough. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for at least 20 minutes
3
In the meantime, make the filling. In a pan over a medium heat, sweat the onion, leeks, garlic and bacon in a little oil (or butter) until soft and slightly golden. Stir in the feta and parsley and season generously. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool
4
Use your hands to roll the dough into a sausage and cut into 10 pieces. Take a piece of dough and cover the remaining 9 pieces with cling film to prevent them from drying out
5
Roll the dough as thinly as you possibly can into a large rectangular shape, then gently stretch it further using your hands. Ideally the dough should be thin enough to be able to see your hand through it
6
Once the dough is as thin as you can make it, brush the filo sheet with melted butter/oil and cover with cling film. Roll out the next piece in the same way, remove the cling film from the first sheet and place the second over the top
7
Brush liberally with more melted butter and place the sheet of cling film back on. Continue until all the dough has been rolled and brushed with melted butter, giving you 10 layers
8
Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7
9
Place the layered filo in front of you, horizontally, and trim off the edges of the pastry to make a neat rectangle. Spoon the filling into a line a few inches in from the edge of the filo closest to you. Now for the fun bit!
10
Roll the whole thing up tightly into a long sausage and, with the seam underneath, coil the sausage into a tight ring. Butter a round ovenproof dish, big enough for the pie to snugly fit into the dish. Use a couple of fish slices, or any other long flat implement to hand, to carefully transfer the pie to the dish
11
Brush the top of the pie with more melted butter and sprinkle over a little salt and pepper. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 20 minutes
12
Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. Leave to cool for 15–20 minutes before carefully transferring the pie to a serving plate. Slice into wedges to serve
 

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