It’s pumpkin season! As the days get colder and shorter I find myself craving warming foods that are bright in colour. Pumpkin meets both these criteria. There are so many things one can cook with pumpkin, and I find myself roasting it quite often lately. But this recipe is quite close to my heart. It takes warmness and coziness to the next level. Today I want to share with you a childhood recipe of a sweet pastry, called “banitsa”. This is a staple food in Bulgaria, and if you ask any Bulgarian about it, they will tell you they love it. Banitsa is always prepared with filo – a super thin unleavened dough.
The fillings can vary – a popular one is with eggs and cheese, but my favourite is with pumpkin and walnuts. 🙂 My grandmother is a master at preparing filo dough. And a banitsa tastes so much better with a home made dough, then a store bought one, so if you have the time try and make you own filo, it is super fun too! For me currently this is mission impossible, as my baby is 12 weeks old, and I have only short spans of free time for cooking. Quick and efficient is my motto these days! 🙂 So I cheated a bit and I am using a ready filo dough. I do find it difficult to find filo in the supermarkets here. Most of the pastry doughs contain butter or worse, margarine, and a true filo dough is made only with flour, water and salt. The one I used for the recipe can be found in the Balkan store in Luxembourg City.
The recipe is easy and fun to make, it does contain sugar, even though I have severely reduced the quantity here. In Bulgaria all deserts are super sweet, think of baklava for example, which is covered in sugar sauce, something common in all Balkan cuisine.
Here is what you will need for this recipe. The products for this recipe have been kindly provided by Delhaize Supermarket.
- 1 kg shredded butternut squash or any other pumpkin variety
- 500 gr filo dough (they are sold in thin leafs)
- 200 gr walnuts (shredded or chopped)
- 180 gr brown sugar (or cane sugar or honey)
- 250 ml vegetable oil (you can use olive oil or rapeseed oil)
- 2-3 tsp cinnamon
- 1-2 tsp vanilla
- Shred the butternut squash (I use the shredding function of my food processor).
- Heat up the oven to 200C.
- Heat a pan or a pot with a bit of oil and add the squash. Stir well until it softens.
- Once the squash is soft remove from the heat and add the sugar, walnuts, cinnamon and vanilla and stir well to mix. Taste it to see if the flavour is according to your liking and adjust if needed. The colour of the filling changes as you add the brown sugar and becomes less bright. I left it like this, but next time might use cane sugar or honey to keep the nice colour of the squash.
- On a clean working space place a baking sheet and on top of it place a single filo leaf. Use a kitchen brush and brush the filo with some oil to cover it.
- Take one to two tablespoons of the filling and gently spread it across the filo.
- Hold both ends of the filo pastry and gently start rolling it, until you get a nice roll.
- Take the roll and place it like a snake around the middle of a round baking pan, that has been already oiled.
- Repeat the process until you have no more filo leafs and filling, and until you fill the pan.
- When the process is complete, brush the top of the banitsa with some more oil and spray a little bit of water on top to help the filo get moist (especially as it is store bought).
- Let is sit for 5 minutes, so the banitsa can absorb the water and then place it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Once the banitsa gets brown and some of the filo pastry dark brown it is ready. Spray some more water on top to help the dry filo to soften further and let it cool down.