This is pumpkin pie- but not as you know it. Byrek Me Kungal is an Albanian filo pie, stuffed with mashed pumpkin and layered with filo pastry. Curiously, it can be served as either a savory or sweet dish. We’ve jazzed up the traditional recipe by adding in a layer of caramelized onions, feta, herbs and lemon zest.
Country Number 2: Albania
After successfully cooking an Afghan vegetarian feast for the first meal of our challenge, we were ready to tackle our next nation: Albania. Both of us are big fans of Mediterranean food, but we have never tried Albanian cuisine before. We were curious to see what unique dishes this country had to offer!
Interestingly, some of Albania’s dishes root all the way back to the ancient Ottoman Empire. Nowadays the influence of Greece, Italy and Turkey is evident in much of the country’s cuisine.
Popular Albanian Vegetarian Dishes
Like most European countries, meat is a staple in the majority of Albania’s traditional dishes. Thankfully, due to its Mediterranean climate, Albania also grows many vegetables. This means there are enough vegetarian-friendly options to go around! Here are a few traditionally Albanian vegetarian dishes that we found:
- Fergese– a dish featuring red peppers, feta, tomato, onions and yogurt
- Qifqi– rice balls filled with spinach and herbs
- Flija– type of crepe brushed with cream and served with sour cream
- Tarator– cold soup made of cucumber, garlic, walnut and fennel
- Byrek– savory filo pie stuffed with filling such as cheese, spinach or pumpkin (see our recipe below!)
Vegetarian rating of Albanian Cuisine:
Making Albanian Pumpkin Filo Pie (Byrek Me Kungal)
Out of all the Albanian vegetarian dishes we researched, we decided to make a Byrek. These savory dinner pies are a real favorite in Albania. Whilst it was tempting to go for the classic spinach and cheese flavour, we thought this sounded very similar to a Greek Spanokoptia. Instead, we opted for a more unique option- the Byrek Me Kungal. This is essentially Albania’s take on pumpkin pie, made up of mashed pumpkin encased in filo pastry.
We are still a little unsure if this pumpkin filo pie is meant to be a sweet or savory dish. All the recipes we found said to season the mashed pumpkin with either salt or sugar… So I guess you can go either way with this dish! We opted for the savory option and added in a few fun (and definitely not traditional) elements to the pie to make it a little more exciting.
What you’ll need to make Pumpkin Filo Pie
These are the ingredients we used to make our pumpkin filo pie. Traditionally, a Byrek Me Kungall is filled with a simple mixture of pumpkin puree, milk, eggs and flour. Then, salt or sugar is added to this mixture to make it either savory or sweet. We wanted to add some extra flavor to our filo pie, so we used the following ingredients:
- Fresh produce– pumpkin (we used butternut squash but you can use any variation), red onion, lemon for the zest and fresh parsley
- Refrigerated items– butter, milk, an egg, ricotta & feta
Steps to making Pumpkin Filo Pie
This pumpkin filo pie is fairly easy to make, and can be broken down into just 3 steps.
- Roast up some pumpkin and mash with eggs, ricotta and milk
- Caramelize onions in a pan, then add in feta and herbs
- Layer filo pastry + above fillings in a baking dish and pop in the oven
Serving Suggestions for Byrek
This pumpkin filo pie makes for a great lunch or snack, especially when paired with a side salad. We served up our with a salad of rocket, orange, feta, cranberries, toasted almonds and a simple olive oil dressing. This salad is not traditionally Albanian by any means, but it went really well with the dish!
Albanian Pumpkin Filo Pie (Byrek Me Kungal)
- 8 sheets filo pastry (thawed)
- 1/4 cup butter (melted)
- 4 tsp white sugar
- 300 g pumpkin (cut into 2cm squares)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Salt & pepper (to taste )
- 200 g ricotta
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp milk
Onion & Feta Mixture
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 red onion (sliced)
- 100 g feta (crumbled)
- 1 tbsp parsley (chopped)
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- Salt & pepper (to taste)
Make Pumpkin Mixture
- Heat oven to 220C (425F). Mix pumpkin with oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper and put in oven on lined baking sheet. Cook for 30 minutes, flipping half way.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg, ricotta and milk together in medium bowl.
- Once pumpkin is soft and brown, take out of oven and mash into ricotta mixture.
Make Onion Feta Mixture
- Heat large frying pan and add 2 tablespoons oil on medium heat.
- Add onions and some salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes (do this whilst pumpkin cooks).
- Take off heat and stir in herbs, feta, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
Make Filo Pie
- Turn oven down to 190C (375F). Grease and line square baking tin.
- Taking one sheet of filo pastry at a time, brush with butter a sprinkle with a little bit of sugar. Place into baking tin so pastry hangs over edge.
- Repeat with 3 more sheets, changing the direction which you put the sheet in the tin each time to ensure even edges.
- Spread pumpkin mixture on top of filo, then top with onion feta mixture.
- Add four more sheets of filo pastry (follow same directions as step 3). Fold in the overhang and scrunch as you do.
- Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until brown on top. Cover with foil and leave in oven for another 5-10 minutes to ensure pie is cooked all the way through without burning outside.
Did you make this recipe? We’d love to know! Tell us how it went in the comments below or tag us (@gourmetvegetarians) in your photos on Instagram.
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