By Kaja Korbar Olcott
Gužvara is a savoury pie using flaky dough that can be filled with various ingredients, such as minced meat or traditionally with fresh farmer’s cheese. This variation uses three types of cheese as well as swiss chard for some added nutrition. The name derives from the word “gužvati,” meaning to crumple, which is what is done with the layers of dough that are dipped into the filling.
It is simple to assemble and very forgivable, making it a fun activity to do together with the kids. The recipe can be taken more as a guideline than a strict protocol. Gužvara can be served hot or cold, though it is extra delicious when reheated in individual portions in a toaster oven, giving each slice crispy edges and a soft center. It makes for a hearty breakfast or a delicious lunch when paired with a side salad.
375 grams Zagrebacki sir, or fresh farmer’s cheese
250 grams of cottage cheese
150 grams feta style cheese
250 grams (one bunch) fresh swiss chard, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1-2 garlic clove(s), minced
1 cup of milk, plus extra if needed
⅓ cup of neutral oil or olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 package of phyllo dough, medium thickness
Salt to taste
Ensure your phyllo dough has been thawed. Oil the bottom of a medium sized rectangular baking dish, about 40 x 25cm.
Saute the onions in a lightly oiled pan until softened. Add the garlic and toast until fragrant – roughly 30 seconds. Add the chopped chard, season with a pinch of salt, and cook until just softened – about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together the farmer’s cheese, cottage cheese, feta style cheese, milk and oil. Stir until combined. Taste for saltiness. If necessary, you can add a bit more feta or a pinch of salt. Beat in the eggs and stir in the sauteed chard.
Line the bottom of the baking dish with two to three sheets of dough with 4-6 cms overhanging on the sides. Lightly brush the exposed dough with oil, particularly the overhanging ends, to prevent drying out. Set aside 2-3 sheets of dough for later to use as the top layers.
Tear apart half a sheet of dough in your clean hands, crumple and dunk it into the cheese mixture, ensuring it gets well coated. Pile it into one corner of your baking dish. Repeat the process until the dish is filled with the dough and cheese mixture. Try to leave roughly half a cup of the mixture for the end. Add milk and a little oil if the cheese mixture starts to run low.
Fold in the overhanging dough onto the crumpled mixture. Add one layer of phyllo dough, fold if necessary, and brush with oil. Layer additional dough and tuck in the extra dough around the edges – it doesn’t matter if the dough cracks or crinkles.
Take any remaining cheese mixture and pour it over the top so that it is well coated and a small amount pools around the edges. If it looks like there is not enough cheese mixture, thin out with milk and a little oil.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, during which the gužvara will rest.
Bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack, then rotate the pan. Bake for an additional 15-25 minutes or until the top is deeply golden.
Cool for 10 minutes prior to serving. Enjoy!
Photos provided by Jerko Steiner