Originally called "topeno sirenye" (lit. melted cheese) or "sirenye vo furna" (lit. cheese in the oven), this dish is being made in each home, traditional restaurant and pizzeria across the western part of Macedonia, but in the past few years it became popular in the rest of the country as well.
It's commonly baked and served into earthenware pots, each being a single generous serving. It is served with crispy, seasoned, wood-fired flatbread which is dipped into the cheese, and makes you eat more and more... and just a bit more! This dish consists of several different layers of cheese, with meat and various condiments in between. Each cook has its own recipe, adding or removing some ingredient, but one thing is for sure: there is always a cheese... lot of cheese!
I've tried several variants so far, and that is how I came to the version we are pleased by the most. It became our "steady" Baked Cheese recipe, and I hope it will delight you as well!
I have to say I still haven't found a satisfying flatbread recipe, so I'm going with the faster and easier version: seasoned double-baked regular bread.
The pots I have are 10x20 cm , so when filled they make approx. two helpings (depending on how hungry you are, ha ha...) I will list here the ingredients I use for one of those pots, and you shall determine the ratio you need. So, you'll need the following:
- First, melt the butter into a small pot over medium fire. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat until the mixture turns light golden. Remove from fire and pour milk in. Whisk to break the lumps and get a smooth mixture. Put it back on fire and let it come to a boil, stirring very often. Once it starts boiling, remove from fire and season with some pepper to taste. There's no need to add salt. This is your bechamel sauce.
- Now, it time for making the layers. In an ungreased baking pot, arrange the following:
- half of the feta cheese (crushed)
- half of the meat (sliced)
- half of the bechamel sauce
- tomato sauce
- brined cheese (crushed or grated)
- the rest of the meat (sliced)
- mushrooms (sliced)
- the rest of the bechamel sauce
- the rest of the feta cheese
- yellow cheese (grated)
3. Bake into a preheated oven at 200°C for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese on the top starts browning.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the bread. Cut it into thin slices, then each slice into few stripes (2-3 cm wide).
5. Combine oil and oregano and brush each slice with this mixture. Bake at 200°C for 2-3 minutes. Do not overbake it, as it will become too hard eventually.
Note that you should do this step just before serving, so that bread is freshly baked.
In the photo on the left you can see how the bread looks like before it goes into the oven.
You can use forks instead, but dipping is warmly recommended! :)
Enjoy and bon appétit!