Lakror: An Albanian Meat Pie

Gezuar vitin e ri 2006!!

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Albanian cuisine is typical of the Balkans, and similar to other Mediterranean cuisines. Albania was under Turkish subjugation for almost 500 years, so their cuisine shows a lot of Turkish influence. Because of proximity, however, some regions also have a lot of Italian- and Greek-like dishes. Lakror is a pie most common in Korca or Korce, a city famous for its serenades, though it is found throughout Albania. Depending on where you look, you’ll find out that lakror is made with many different things. It is closely related to — and sometimes considered interchangeable with — byrek, also commonly known as “spinach pie”. Note the similarity in name and preparation method to the borek from Damascus and bourek from Algeria. Lakror, however, seems to be more versatile; some sources describe it as a pie, others as a pancake. It can incorporate everything from cheese and eggs to meat and vegetables like green beans and leeks, or onions and tomatoes. When served at New Years’ celebrations, a coin is put under the bottom layer of pastry, and whoever gets the slice of pie that has the coin is believed to be blessed with extra luck for the coming year. In the Korca region, it is also traditionally baked with nettles, a custom which is said to be connected to St. John the Baptist who lived off nettles while he wandered the desert. Lakror is such a fixture in Albanian cuisine that in the US, Albanian Orthodox churches serve or sell lakror at parish picnics and fundraisers.

Historical Tidbits about Albania: A bunch of Roman emperors, including Diocletian and Constantine the Great, were from Albania. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born in Macedonia, to Albanian heritage. Her real name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu.

Sources:

A Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology, and Folk Culture by Robert Elsie
Albania and the Albanians, by Van Christo
The Mediterranean Diet by Cloutier and Adamson
Albania, from NewAdvent.org
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, from Catholic Online
The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert

Lakror (St. Basil’s Meat Pie)

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground lamb
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly minced parsley, preferably flat-leaf
1/2 cup cooked rice
6 eggs (this is from the original, though I reduced mine to 3)
8 oz. phyllo dough, pieces trimmed to fit a 9×13 baking pan
1/4 to 1/3 cup melted butter

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add the gorund meats, garlic, salt, oregano and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring to break up the pieces, until meat has completely changed color. Drain off fat and adjust seasonings. Cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Add parsley, rice and eggs and stir well. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush a 9×13 pan with melted butter. Lay one piece of phyllo dough on the bottom, and brush with melted butter. Repeat until you have used up half of the phyllo pastry (about 10 pieces). Spread the meat mixture evenly over the phyllo dough. Top with the remaining phyllo dough pieces, brushing each layer with melted butter, until all the dough is used up. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Serves 8 with salad and/or soup, or up to 16, when served with other dishes.

This recipe comes from Cooking with the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf, with instructions modified by yours truly.

Addendum: Angelo comments below on the similarities of lakror to banitsa, a Bulgarian dish. In A Short History of Modern Greece, they talk about the Greeks pursuing the Turks into Banitsa, and I’m thinking this dish was named after the place. Also found this on infohub:

The most common Bulgarian snack food is banitsa (often referred to by its diminutive form, banichka , or known in some areas as byurek ), a flaky pastry filled with cheese or, on occasion, meat. At its best, the banitsa is a delicious light bite, although it’s invariably quite stodgy by the time it reaches the streets. Mlechna banitsa (literally “milk banitsa “) is a richer, sweeter version made using eggs and dusted with icing sugar, while the Rhodopska banitsa , found only in the Rhodopes, is more like a soufflé filled with cheese.


I’m updating this post to include a link to more discussion at Chowhound. This is the stuff that fascinates me!

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36 thoughts on “Lakror: An Albanian Meat Pie

  1. Hi,
    Sometime ago,a Bulgarian friend gave us some Banitsa.The process and traditions in the making of Banitsa seems to be similar with Lakror.

    I posted something about Banitsa in my blog

  2. here in greece we have bits of tid bits called BOUREKAKIA little bourek
    stuffing can vary…as for albania greece and bulgaria just think they were all under the Ottoman empire so they do share common cuisine somehow

  3. My family, who are Albanian, often enjoy Lakror (or as the American generation pronounces it, “La-crew-a”. However, for New Year’s we always enjoyed a large buttery spiral pastry called “bluestrel’. I am making up a phoenetic spelling, since my Grandmother bever learned to write in English. It was in this dish that a coin was hidden in the bottom layer, for good luck to the household that recieved that slice. Has anyone else heard of this, or have a recipe for it? It would be very interesting to know a little more about the tradition.
    Nancy

  4. that’s what i figured, sha. one of these days i’ll have to visit you so you can give me a food tour hehehe….

    hello nancy, thanks for visiting! i’ll ask around/do some digging and i’ll let you know if i learn anything about your pastry.

  5. Ethnic Albanian which is live in Turkey Says “Börek or Lakrur” in Turkish for This Pie.Very Delicious and every week we are cooking this pie…

  6. Hi, Nancy

    I am also Albanian -American & mom always put the quarter in the lakror she served on New Year’s day. I don’t recall us eating a pastry like that, although we did eat those rolled pastries filled with poppy seeds that you see in other ethnic bakeries, from time to time…

    ALso, we pronounce lakror as lak-ROAR.

    And the fillings my mom & grandmother made :

    -cottage cheese ( a little feta, too) & leeks/or/spinach& onion;
    -tomatoes & onions;
    -summer squash;
    -sauerkraut;
    hamburger, onion, tomatoes & potatoes.

    All delicious 🙂

  7. To Nancy Andon:
    The buttery spiral pastry is called “Brushtull” in English, and you should be able to find a recipe for it in most Albanian cookbooks. If you are unable to locate an Albanian cookbook, you might try contacting some Albanian Orthodox churches as they sometimes put together and sell such cookbooks.
    My Grandmother taught me how to make Brushtull, and it requires a lot of butter. The dough was the same recipe she used for her Lakror -which she usually filled with spinach and tomato sauce or a custard made with grated summer squash.
    My Grandmother, who was born in Albania, used to make Brushtull in a large, deep enamel pan. When I make it, I usually bake it in smaller, shallower pans (like cake pans) so there are more of the browned, crispy edges. Smaller loaves also make it easier to divide among relatives.
    I hope this is of help to you and that you and your family will enjoy some Brushtull on the first day of the next New Year – and that you find the coin!
    Marilyn L. George

  8. Am looking for a brushtull receipe, my husband enjoyed as a child. It is an Albanian bread that has lots of butter and the dough is pulled and stretched and pulled and streched and laid in a pinwheel fashion and baked. Can anyone help? I have an Albanian cook book but brushtull don’t seem to come out right.

  9. My mother was born in Corce. She was a great cook and could make filo and strudel dough by hand. My sister and I are looking for a recipe for something she called Lakror but was not the filo-type dough. It was heavier and was filled with tomatoes, onions and potatoes. Would appreciate the recipe.

    1. Hi Sandra, I too am of Albanian origin, and like most similar folk I talk too, have all been bought up with traditional Albanian dishes. In regards to the Lakror, my favourite is onion and tomato’s. The doe mix I use is plain flour mixed with water, must use a small tea spoon of salt, knead it until slightly sticky, the trick if any is to rest it in the refrigerator for an hour, cover the doe with glad wrap. The rest is as per recipe standards.

      Sarah, I hope this has been of some insight from an Australian, with Albanian heritage. You may also consider good old Australian food.

      Cheers

  10. I’ll see what I can find out, Sandra! Thanks for dropping by.

    D. Kalfa, I tried looking for brushtull but no luck. I’ll try to ask around again.

    Thanks to everyone for the comments — I’m learning a lot here!

  11. I would love a recipe for making either this or Burek but I do not like the Phyllo dough. Does anyone have a recipe on how to make your own homemade dough for this recipe? Thanks

  12. the best Albanian cookbook can be bought from the St. Mary’s Assumption Albanian Orthodox Church in Worcester, MA., for $22.50 plus S&H

    Women’s Guild Cookbook
    PO Box 20357
    Worcester, MA 01602
    508 798 4701

    This book really helps me to identify with my heritaqe.

    Enjoy, Nashi

  13. for Nancy Andon
    The Lakror is divided in pices, and there is one pice fo each member of the family + one fore the home.
    All the person select one pice and controll if have coin.
    The person who gets the pice of Lakror with the coin is the more luckest for the new wear…
    If the coin is “Home pice” there all the family will have luck for the whole year…

    P.S.–I wont it last year 🙂

  14. i am also albanian and my right now is just making lakror. this can be done with potatos,onions,and tomato suace. this is delicious trust me:)

  15. BRUSHTULL is known by the name of Dredhanik (literally meaning spirals, turns, as for the many turns and pirals of the dough) It is prepared by making the dough with eggs and much thinner than byrek and lakror. Same thickness as you would use for Baklava. Extremely popular in Korca area.. buttery and yummi.

    THe original poster, there is a difference between byrek and lakror. Lakror is flexible in the number of sheets used, you can prepare one called “me kulac” which is basically three/four rounds of dougs, spprinkled with butter and opened into a big sheet together, topped with filling, covered with another thick layer prepared by three/four rounda doughs opened by the rolling pin toghther.. or it can have other varities.

    Byrek can have one or two fillings but it needs more than two layers that are much thiner than those of lakror.

  16. My mother and father’s parents came from Korce. I remember my mother hiding a quarter in baklava instead of lakror. This was done at New Years and the lucky person who selected the piece with the coin, of course, had good luck the rest of the year.

  17. robert, did you carry on any of your beloved albanian traditions with your children? i see you posted this on july 18. I am open to further discussion. you have my email.

  18. yes, bob, let’s hear about your wonderful family man traditions in the past and present and don’t leave out all the negatives.

  19. i run a fctory in queen and have many albanians working here. every year we have a large christmas prty and serve food. this year i would lke to include some albanian food. i hae rad that lakror is a main stay but i cannot find any restaurants that make it. can you make a suggestion

  20. My fondest memories of my grandmother and her sisters is making Lakror – My grandmother would make a large pie weekly and my dad would bring it home fresh out of the oven……………..it did not last even 1 hour. Many of my relatives that were from Albania have passed on and I really miss the traditions and the food! I recently starting going back to my Albanian Orthodox Church – it feels good to get back to my roots.

  21. My mom is 100% Albanian. My grandparents and several aunts and uncles were born there and we still have distant cousins who have located my family via the internet. My grandparents were from Korce. I remember my grandmother making all kinds of Lakror (spinache, pumpkin, leeks, and sauerkraut), she would roll out her paperthin dough with a broom handle. I also remember the bread she made that had some symbol on it, I believe it was called something like mescha? My grandmother didn’t speak English and passed away when I was in my teens and I kick myself today for not paying attention when she cooked. I have been given recipes on how to make spinache lakror but I use the phyllo dough. My mother belongs to St George’s Albanian Orthodox Church and the kind women there let me watch them make the pies. I am no where near my Nunna’s recipe but my mom said it’s not bad.

    1. I realize this post is quite old by now, but I have an answer to the Meshca question. I am 1/2 Albanian and 1/2 Russian. Had an Albanian Grandfather that was a priest in Albania in the very early 20th century. My grandmother baked mescha for her church for many years. I bake the phosphora for my Russian church. Mescha=prosphora=communion bread/antidoran.

  22. I’m going to have to try this. It’s deciding which version (spinache, pumpkin, leeks, and sauerkraut) is going to be the best one to start with that will be confusing. I think the coin is going to be the easiest part 🙂

  23. hey, who is your mother that belongs to St. George? I am the church school coordinator there. I know almost everyone there, so i probably know your mom. what’s her name?

  24. I have to say.. the kind with the leeks is definitely the best..
    My grandmother my mother, and I make it all the time..

  25. @ Lauren – I love the one with leeks best too, so I’ll be at your house at about sixish, OK? 😉

    My grandparents were all from the Korca district of Albania too. There’s just something down-home about lakror – or byrek, burek, bourek, spanakopita, tyropita, whateveringredientyouhaveonhand-pita! I’d like to echo Sha’s comments above – from Greece. We all have a common, shared heritage in the Balkans with our neighbors, and everyone posting on this site probably has their own special take on this type of pie. The leek pie in particular makes me think of my grandparents, family get-togethers, tables heavy-laden with lamb, salad, cheese and olives, to say nothing about the animated – sometimes heated – conversations at the table. Also church picnics – with the clarinet wailing, people dancing, and the air redolent with the smell of roasting lamb.

    My mother would make one with red and green peppers and onion for Lent and the crust was butter-free (she used olive oil for it). My brother loved that one. I liked it, but for me, there was NOTHING like the crust when it’s made with clarified butter. There’s another one she makes sometimes with ground lamb and onions. I like it with spinach, of course, too. Invariably, in our family, there would be cheese mixed in with the spinach – or the leeks. But it’s also great without cheese. I’ve had it that way at some Turkish restaurants – cheese-free. Simple, flakey, and tasty.

    Sometimes, in the autumn, the ladies would make lakror with butternut squash; I was always on the fence about that one as a kid. Not sure I could square the idea of a sweet-tasting lakror with my expectations of a savory pie. As an adult though, I gobble it up. And oddly enough, in Boboshtica, there is a version made with – of all things – a type of sauerkraut and tomato! That one was also made with the olive oil based crust if I’m not mistaken.

    In my family and many others of our community it was the tradition to make either a lakror or a brushtull at New Year’s and put the coin inside of it. I know other Albanians make çyrek or bukë te ëmbël – what the Greeks call Vasilopita – and put the money inside of that instead. It doesn’t matter what you make, the point is, if you’re fortunate enough to get the slice with the money in it, you’ll have good luck for the year! So with that, I wish all my fellow lakror/byrek/pita-lovers out there good luck. Wherever our roots happen to run, let’s keep them alive – keep them nourished by eating the foods we grew up with, and sharing them with one another.

    Here in New York, we’re fortunate. There is actually an Albanian place called Byrektorja Dukagjini, located on Lydig Avenue in the Bronx. They make the pies to order – fresh, light, flakey and delicious. In Astoria, Queens, there’s a tiny shop called ‘To Laiko’, and the owners are actually originally from Thessaloniki, Greece. They make the pie with squash in the autumn. They also have it with leeks. In both Palisades Park and Paterson, NJ, as well as the Turkish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, you can find a number of excellent traditional bakers preparing byrek fresh and made to order. That said, nobody can ever, EVER outdo any of our grandmothers – ever, ever, ever. Amen. 😉

  26. Hello everyone, I am sorry for being off but what theme do you have? did you create it yourself? I like the theme of this blog.

  27. First i want to agree with the two above, Lauren and Papa Lazo. My Family also came from, Korce, Albania. I also make the, Spinach, Leek, Meat and Squash Pies. Rolling the dough is the best, Filo comes close, but for a good cheat, Pepperidge Farms Pastry Sheets works well also, but double the boxes, two for the bottom, and two for the top for the Traditional Round (deep) Style. Yum!!!!
    I need help people. My Neno (Grandmother,) and Aunt (Teta) had a recipe for these Cinnamon and Sugar Cookies (contained, Sour Cream, Butter, and other ingredients)that were rolled up Crescent Style, also the dough mixture was refridgerated usually over night. I need HELP please, I can not find my recipe, and all of my family in no longer, so I have no one to ask. Can someone, who may know of thsi recipe for these cookies, can you please post it here. These are the best cookies. Ladies would make these for Church function. I have had them at both, Natick, MA and Worcester, MA Church Functions. PLEASE help me, would love this recipe again!

  28. Can someone please help mw with the Crescent Style Rolled Cinnamon and (White) Sugar Cookies. I do remember it had Vanilla, Butter, Sour Cream, wraped in plactic wrap, placed in fridge, usually overnight. These cookies were always in most Albanian functions, just like all the types of, Lakror. If you can publish on this web, privately you do have my email as well. I miss these cookies, I have no one to ask, Hilodays are upon us, I really need to make them!
    So once ahain, PLEASE help me!!!!

  29. Hi Samantha,
    I saw the site you supplied, sorry to say that is not Spinach Pie, which is made the same way as the Meat Pie, (see picture above) it tend to be, buttery, use un salted butter. You can use the Filo dough, or you can also use as I did suggest above, the Pepperidge Farm Pastery Sheets. Let me know if you do need a recipe for the Spinach Pie version. Happy Holidays!!! Elaine

  30. Hi,
    I’m looking for recipe for a pastry made with filo in trialgles called “dubli” –
    And a hamburger that would rise and be very airy called “kufdea”?
    My husband is Albanian and his aunt remembers these dishes but does not have her mother’s recipes.
    Thanks
    Lori

  31. (RE:Sandra Pany
    January 14, 2007 at 4:57 pm
    My mother was born in Corce. She was a great cook and could make filo and strudel dough by hand. My sister and I are looking for a recipe for something she called Lakror but was not the filo-type dough. It was heavier and was filled with tomatoes, onions and potatoes. Would appreciate the recipe.)

    My Family is also from Korce, this is how I make Lakror, I am actually making one now. I hope this helps.

    Dough:
    3 cups of strong white flour, 1 cup of water and some salt (I have to give approximates as there are never any real recipes)
    knead well.

    Cut the dough into 2 pieces, then cut the 2 pieces into about six pieces each and roll them into small balls, so you will have six for the top and six for the bottom (if you want a flakier pasty make it 4 on the bottom and 8 on top)

    roll out each small ball with a bit of flour to a small thin disc. With some melted butter brush over each of these small discs, and place another disc on top until you have you 6 layers but don’t butter the very top disc.

    Once that is done, roll out the layered pastry and place on the bottom of a large baking tray.

    place your filling inside and put a very loose layer of pastry on top (make sure the top layer is rolled out quite large so you can create folds in the pastry).

    cook for about 30 mins on 180 metric (not sure what that is in imperial)

    The top layer will rise quite a lot in the oven but dont worry, that is good, it makes the pastry flakey.

    But just remember not to skimp on the butter!!!

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