This recipe is inspired by the famous Gibanica cheese pastry pies served throughout the Balkans. It’s a popular breakfast meal and savory snack I saw on menus and in bakeries in Montenegro and Croatia during my visit in October 2012. There are countless variations, including pastry pies with spinach, poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, and other fillings.
My recipe for vegan gibanica is best described as a curious cross between vegan quiche, lasagna, and strudel – all recipes which I just happen to have previously made for The Lotus and the Artichoke cookbook and this website. It’s no coincidence that the dish closely resembles Turkish and Greek cheese pastries, börek and tiropita. A glance at a map and we all know why. The Balkan states and their neighbors have their own variations (and names) for burek.
The type of puff pastry you use (or make!) will largely determine the outcome of your gibanica. Yesterday, I experimented with store-bought, organic pastry dough. With previous recipes, I’ve had better, lighter, puffier results with conventional (non-organic) pastry. The stuff is easy to find without animal ingredients, so I pretty much never make my own. Whole wheat pastry may be healthier and hippier, but I find it too dense and distracting in flavor. Same for spelt pastry and other fancy alternatives, but feel free to go wild, as you wish.
Traditionally, gibanica is served with thick, fresh homemade yogurt. I’ve yet to find truly satisfying vegan yogurt (especially in Europe). I had plain soy yogurt with this last night for effect and to (somewhat) honor the culinary custom. One day I’m going to try to make my own vegan kefir and yogurt. In fact, if you have any experience with that, please let me know.
Gibanica – Balkan Cheese Pie
serves 4 / time 60+ min
- 14 oz / 400 g puff pastry dough
- 2 Tbs margarine
- 7 oz / 200 g tofu
- 1 cup / 240 ml soy milk
- 1/4 cup / 30 g cashews lightly toasted, ground
- 1/4 cup / 30 g sunflower seeds lightly toasted, ground
- 1 Tbs sesame seeds lightly toasted, ground
- 3 Tbs chickpea flour
- 3 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- Puree tofu and soy milk in a food processor or blender until smooth.
- In large mixing bowl, combine tofu puree, ground cashews, sunflower and sesame seeds, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, salt, turmeric, lemon juice. Mix well until smooth.
- Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C / level 5.
- Melt margarine in a small pan on low heat.
- Lightly grease a small (6 x 9 in / 16 x 24 cm) baking / casserole dish.
- Roll out and cut pastry dough as needed to line dish. Brush with melted margarine.
- Pour 1/3 of filling mix, spread evenly on pastry. Carefully top with another layer of pastry, brush with margarine.
- Assemble another 2 or 3 layers until filling is used up, ending with a layer of pastry on top. Brush with margarine.
- Bake for 40 to 50 min until pie has risen, filling is firm, and pastry is puffy and golden brown.
- Allow to cool before cutting. Serve with soy yogurt or sour cream.
Spinach-cheese gibanica: Add fresh chopped spinach on top of filling of each layer. Slightly sweet cheese gibanica: Omit turmeric, use 1/4 tsp salt and add 2-3 Tbs sugar to filling mix. Super cheesy: Add grated vegan cheese to each layer.
This recipe, and my vegan recipe for Grah – Balkan Bean Stew, were specially created for the cookbook and the entire travel made possible by my most generous contributor to the Kickstarter project. Thank you, Julia! I’m also grateful to my friends at Jets Like Taxis for the invitation to visit and travel with them. It was an incredible experience!
Check out some of the photos from the trip: