#56 ćevapčići & ajvar

Discovering new things is always a favorite part of mine, and part of the purpose of this whole adventure is to find new things and try out as many diverse foods as possible.  Authentic food local to each culture is so amazing, and even though I might not travel the entire world in my lifetime, I can travel the world in my kitchen with every new ingredient and recipe I can find.

Our neighboring ALDI supermarket was being remodelled since we arrived in Leipzig, and for the past 6 months they put up a provisional tent on a vacant lot nearby.  Last Friday was the tent’s official last day, and we happened to walk in just as the last items were being marked down!  Due to the limited amounts, we found just what we needed for the week but also took advantage of the slashed prices to buy some interesting new things, among them cevapcici – an unknown-to-me meat product (think hamburger hot dog!) that the ever-so-useful Pinterest taught me how to serve!

Cevapcici (spelled ćevapčići in its original language) is a skinless beef & pork meat sausage from the Eastern European Balkan region, found in the countries of the former Yugoslavia: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Slovenia & Serbia.  They are usually served on a plate or in a flatbread with chopped onions, sour cream, ajvar, and cottage cheese, with similar sauces.  The traditional, and preferred, way of cooking is grilled on glowing coals.  The most famous cevapcici, though, are the Bosnian variety, considered Bosnia & Herzegovina’s national dish.

For the Cevapcici

  • 750g ground beef
  • 400g ground pork
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled & crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 105ml water
  • olive oil

Place the minced beef and pork in a large bowl, then add the garlic.  Sprinkle with the baking soda and paprika, and season.  Add the egg and using your hands mix everything together.  Add as much of the water as you think is needed to make a smooth, pliable mixture.

Divide the meat into 10 to 12 pieces and roll each on into a thick firmly-packed sausage shape.  Place on an oiled baking tray, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge until needed.

Ajvar is a type of red pepper spread or sauce found in Serbian cuisine, usually made with garlic, eggplant and sometimes chili peppers.  It became a popular side dish throughout Yugoslavia after World War II and is very popular in the Balkans nowadays.  It’s a popular winter food as it can be prepared and stored over time.

For the Ajvar

  • 6 red peppers
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 garlic bulb, unpeeled
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 lemons
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 230°C.  Place the whole peppers and eggplants on a large roasting tray along with the unpeeled garlic bulb.  Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the skins are blackened, turning halfway through.  Place the vegetables in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for 20 minutes, to steam off the skins.  Once cooled, pull off and discard the skins, seeds, and stalks and chop up.

Squeeze out the garlic from about 6 cloves and add to the vegetables along with the parsley, chopping everything up.  Season with salt and pepper, squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon, and drizzle with olive oil.  If you’d like, purée entirely, or just chop and mix until a paste is formed.

Place a griddle pan over high heat and cook the cevapcici until cooked through.  To serve, warm the flatbread in the oven, spread some ajvar on top, with a couple of cevapcici and the additions you think are best!  I used roasted green beans, pickled garlic, and herders cheese.  You can also add tiny peppers, sour cream, and red onion for an added kick!

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