Cooking with Branko: Serbian Gibanica

We visited our friend Branko in Kovin, his home town, located some 50 km from Belgrade. It’s not big and can’t be considered a tourist attraction but Eurovelo track cuts through it and the Danube, flowing nearby, can offer some spectacular views. Some kilometers out of town there’s a cyclist guesthouse, the only one in Serbia, a rare bird in general. We had a chat with the friendly owners and got a couple shots of the sun setting over the river.

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Branko was patient while answering all our questions about Serbian cuisine and to satiate our curiosity a bit, he proposed we make one of the absolute Serbian classics, the gibanica. Even before this I’ve tried, unsucessfully, to work out the difference between layered Serbian bakings, namely between gibanica and burek (with cheese). The extended comparison found at wikipedia did not seem to help. I guess it doesn’t matter much, because Serbians themselves have a difficulty explaining what the difference really is, though it seems it may be the eggs, in case of gibanica.

The recipe is quite simple, it requires only five ingredients:

– kore, or very thin sheets of dough, in other parts of world known as filo (we used about 15 sheets)

– eggs (5-6)

– white salty sirene cheese (almost a pound)

– vegetable oil or olive oil

– caraway seeds

– sparkling water

We began by whisking eggs in a shallow bowl and then adding cheese and mashing it with a fork, while adding a bit of sparkling water and the caraway seeds. There are three ways of utilizing kore: it can be layered, rolled or crumpled like a discarded sheet of paper. We used the third, seemingly most fun method. The most important thing is not to let the kore dry up because it will result in the final product being crumbly and dry. That’s why the package must be opened when everything else is ready, including having some water for sprinkling and a wet cloth for covering the sheets when needed. Next, we smeared the dish with oil and placed a couple of sheets at the bottom, sprinkling them with a bit of water and maybe oil as well. Then the kore was crumpled into a ball and dipped inside the cheese/egg mixture, making sure some of the stuffing got stuck inside. We were working quickly and effectively, putting the balls of kore densly next to each other. When finished, we lightly sprinkled everything again, put on a top layer and tucked in the sides. The top needed to be smeared with a touch of oil and sprinkled again with water and caraway seeds put on top. Then the dish went into the oven for about 40 minutes, until all the layers inside were soft and the top was browned. The crumpled sheets became moist and elastic layers. A success! Thank you, Branko!

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P.S. Abroad, the gibanica  can also be made using filo dough and firm white cheese with added salt. Branko says that filo is slightly different than kore and he always used to use frozen supplies from Serbia.

P.P.S The gibanica success got us so randy that the next day we spun out pita od jabuka or rolled  kore with apples and cinnamon.

serbia making pita od jabuka-1957

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serbia making pita od jabuka-1999

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