5 Ingredients or Fewer

Balkan Lamb and Leek Pie

January  4, 2013
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes one 10-inch pie
Author Notes

Call it pita, banitsa, or zelnik, the people of the Balkans love their filled phyllo pies. Cheese, leeks, spinach, cabbage, pumpkin, apple, or meat fill these. My mom used to make one filled with ground beef, onion, and a lot of black pepper (I mean *a lot* of black pepper!). I decided to use ground lamb and leek and coil the little rolls into a round baking dish. This makes a small 10-inch pie but you can certainly double the ingredients to fill a 14- or 15-inch deep-dish pizza pan. —inpatskitchen

Test Kitchen Notes

Love, love. It's terrific with all that black pepper. This could easily be sliced table-side because it's so pretty and unique-looking. Sophisticated without much effort. Next time I'd put cheese in the filling, but still, this one is a winner. I equate "pie" with time consuming, but this is not. Is it a weeknight dinner posing as something finer? As the lead says, you can easily experiment with the filling. Mine looked very nice—but would have looked even better if I had taken time to snug up the coils so that it was a bit easier to slice. —Karen McCarthy

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground lamb
  • 3 medium leeks, white and light green part only, cleaned, cut lengthwise and then crosswise in 1/4-inch half-moons. (You should have about 4 cups.)
  • 8 tablespoons butter, divided (3/5)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 package phyllo dough (thawed overnight in the fridge if purchased frozen)
  1. In a large sauté pan, brown the ground lamb, breaking the clumps of meat up with a wooden spoon as you go. Once browned, drain the meat thoroughly and place in a medium mixing bowl to cool.
  2. Wipe out the same sauté pan and melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in it. Add the leeks and sauté gently until very soft. Add the leeks to the meat.
  3. Stir in the salt and pepper. I know that this seems like a lot of pepper, but that's the beauty of this pie. Let the mixture cool thoroughly.
  4. Now, time to get rolling. Preheat the oven to 350° F and then melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter. With a pastry brush, coat the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round baking dish with some of the melted butter.
  5. Unwrap the phyllo on a work surface and keep any unused phyllo covered with a very damp tea towel. Take two sheets of the phyllo and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the meat mixture along the bottom edge of the longer side. Roll the meat mixture to form a small log and then place this along the edge of the baking dish. Continue making the logs and place them in a coiled fashion in the baking dish until the dish is filled.
  6. Generously butter the top of the pie with most of the remaining melted butter and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  7. NOTE: This can be made ahead. Just brush a little more butter over the top and place in a 300° F oven for about 15 minutes.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • boulangere
  • sarabclever
  • Andrea K
    Andrea K
  • Emilia Rosa
    Emilia Rosa
  • neonkitty

Recipe by: inpatskitchen

I think I get my love for food and cooking from my mom, who was an amazing cook. She would start baking and freezing a month before Christmas in order to host our huge open house on Christmas afternoon. I watched and I learned...to this day I try not to procrastinate when it comes to entertaining. My cooking style is pretty much all over the place, although I'm definitely partial to Greek and Italian cuisine. Oh yes, throw a little Cajun in there too!

47 Reviews

Kat A. February 20, 2019
I loved this dish! I notice that the baking temperature is missing. I tried the suggested 300 F from the warming up section, but didn't seem to be enough. I'm going to try 350 F next time. I combined this recipe with the recipe I found for Phyllo dough and it turned out fantastic! https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015957-basic-phyllo-dough
inpatskitchen February 20, 2019
So happy you loved this....thanks! And 350F is right (step 4 of instructions)
GenBull November 21, 2017
I don't have farmers cheese can I use goat cheese?
inpatskitchen November 21, 2017
Hi GenBull! The recipe doesn't call for cheese but I think goat cheese or feta would be lovely! Hope you enjoy!
Megan L. August 12, 2017
I have made this like four times now. It's fantastic, and a dollop of Greek yogurt is a delicious addition. Thank you for this!!
inpatskitchen August 12, 2017
Oh I'm so happy you're happy! Thank YOU!!
Danube K. December 5, 2016
For cheese-based filling, use farmer's cheese!
boulangere February 23, 2016
This one of my favorites of yours, Pat.
inpatskitchen February 24, 2016
I love this one too, Cynthia! Thanks!
BayGuy March 29, 2015
I have made a number of savory phyllo dishes over the years (spinach or squash, cheese, eggs, etc.)... this is my first lamb burek. I made a yogurt and red pepper sauce to serve as an accompaniment to this dish. Absolutely delicious!
inpatskitchen March 30, 2015
Thanks BayGuy! Your sauce sounds perfect!
sarabclever February 19, 2014
I love burek. I've made it a few times at home, but really, I should be exploring all the variations shouldn't I? Glad to see you spotlighting this!
inpatskitchen February 19, 2014
Thanks so much sara!
Andrea K. January 5, 2014
This is my second time making this pie. I've never worked with phyllo before but it was easy and delicious.
inpatskitchen January 5, 2014
Thanks! So glad you enjoyed!
diana December 3, 2013
We are Greek. My mother in law makes her own phyllo with a sawed off broom stick, which she had brought with her to the US when coming over for our wedding. She made this "strifti pita" (twisted pita) with cheese, and greens, among other forms of pites ranging from savory to sweet. So many home cooks have their own recipes that they pass down from generation to generation, and sometimes tweak to add their own twist, creating a new thumbprint in a family tradition. My grandparents make the individual triangular pites. When I make spanakopita (spinach pies) & tiropites (cheese pies) I make the triangles and freeze them unbaked, and pull out as many as I need to bake at a time. :)
inpatskitchen December 4, 2013
So many variations of these pies....my mom always made rolls....my dad's wife does the spinach in triangles....but all in all, they a
inpatskitchen December 4, 2013
Sorry...all in all they are all wonderful!
mara L. November 20, 2013
made it tonight, and it was great. thanks for posting!
inpatskitchen November 20, 2013
Thank YOU mara lepri! Glad you liked it!
Darinne November 18, 2013
Another Balkan star is phyllo stuffed with fried onions (a lot of it, walnuts, roasted red pepper and all the fresh herbs you can get. This is one hails form Bulgaria
inpatskitchen November 18, 2013
That sounds so good! There are so many variations of "banitsa"!
Emilia R. November 18, 2013
Darinne, do you mean onions that have been sauteed? That sounds delicious!
Darinne November 19, 2013
Sauteed, indeed! Excuse my English. And yes, it is really, really delicious, no matter how heavy it may get. True comfort/grandma/cold day food.
Emilia R. August 17, 2013
inpatskitchen: I had to let you know I made your recipe and it was astoundingly delicious! I cut it into 4 pieces and put 1/4 in my dish; my husband took a bite and got the 3/4 left! It was THAT delicious. And I used regular ground meat--not easy to get lamb where I live, but I'll try next time. That's a big-time keeper and thank you so much for sharing.
inpatskitchen August 17, 2013
I'm so glad you and your husband enjoyed. Ground beef is perfectly acceptable...I use it often in this as did my mom. Thanks so much!
Emilia R. July 29, 2013
(PS: the purists will forgive me, please?)
Emilia R. July 29, 2013
inpatskitchen: I'm wondering here how this would taste if instead of leeks, zucchini was used... (I'm a sucker for zucchini!) I don't know, I feel like even julienned carrots might work with this... What about fresh green beans sliced on a bias?
inpatskitchen July 30, 2013
Why not? There are so many versions of this and I think yur ideas sound great! let me know how it goes...
neonkitty March 17, 2013
I'm originally from Sarajevo, Bosnia, and I'm so glad to see this recipe on Food52. It is one of my favorite dishes and I love it when my mom and aunt make their version of it (and there are so many). I hope you post many more! x
inpatskitchen March 18, 2013
Thanks so much neonkitty! I have a few others posted on the site..
TheWimpyVegetarian February 19, 2013
This looks fantastic Pat. I took a class from a woman from Eastern Europe who made this with her homemade dough every week. She rolled and stretched her dough out with a sawed off broomstick. Amazing to watch her make this. And it was sooooo good. Thanks so much for posting this with phyllo - I don't eat lamb anymore, but I could turn this into a vegetarian one pretty easily. Love this!!
inpatskitchen February 20, 2013
Oh yes...try spinach or leek..fantastic and actually my favorites! I have one posted with spinach, scallions and leek here but not coiled. And thanks!
Vivian H. January 31, 2013
Mmm -- looks like something different for Super Bowl this year. Saved.
inpatskitchen January 31, 2013
Thanks Vivian! Please let me know how it goes...
thirteenJ January 29, 2013
Congrats, inpats!!!
Looks beautiful..I would love to see the spinach and cheese recipes!!
inpatskitchen January 29, 2013
Thanks thirteenJ! I do have one posted called "Mom Would Be Proud Scallion Leek and Spinach Pie" which is pretty much a basic recipe. Just add more spinach and skip the leek for spinach pie.
drbabs January 28, 2013
inpatskitchen January 28, 2013
Thank you Barbara!
GiGi26 January 25, 2013
Congratulations!!! It's a beauty!
inpatskitchen January 25, 2013
You're always too kind! Thanks!