Flaky filo pastry packed with carby goodness, that just so happens to be vegan
Food is one of those things that enthusiasts and casual consumers alike can argue about until they’re blue in the face. Cream or jam first on a scone? Where to draw the line been pasty and pie? And, perhaps most commonly, who makes the ‘correct’ version of a dish beloved internationally?
The envelope-shaped pastries found at Balkan Bites are one such example. Originating in Turkey and spread across the Balkans by the Ottoman empire, in each country it was reborn, remade and renamed, its only agreed fundamental tenements being filo pastry and some kind of filling. Some traditionalists maintain that only spinach and cheese, tomatoes or some kind of meat will do; at Balkan Bites, they don’t feel bound to conform.
The original recipe is highly traditional, inspired by founder Ran’s Israeli grandmother: “This new filling and the rest of the new range we are working on, however, is original to us—you won’t find someone selling it anywhere else,” says Ran. “I get to know my customers, and I came to understand that they want vegan options.” And so the sweet potato, caramelised onion and chickpea boureka was born.
The filo is made and stretched in the stall’s Shoreditch bakery, filled with a combination of the boureka’s title ingredients plus coriander, some pepper, salt, and cumin, and expertly folded. “The best process to make boureka is to freeze it immediately after you make it then bake it from frozen, which we do on site the next morning at Borough Market to order.” This keeps the boureka as fresh as can be, and delectably flaky.
Glazed with high quality Italian olive oil from The Olive Oil Co (rather than the usual egg wash) and topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, it’s perfectly satisfying on its own—though you can, if you’re particularly hungry, make a meal of it by adding a generous dollop of homemade hummus (dried chickpeas soaked for 18 hours, cooked for six hours and blitzed with tahini from Sudan) topped with more chickpeas and a garnish of green chillies, coriander and spices, for a kick of heat.
Bourek, burek, boureki, spanakopita or boureka: you can argue about its name all you like. But the comfortingly carby combination of crisp yet fluffy pastry, squidgy sweet potato, tangy caramelised onion and the bite of chickpeas is—inarguably—a winner.