I have just come back from the Christmas break, and while Foodysseus may have been ignored for the better part of a month, I have certainly been busy sampling food, drink, and more food from around the world (unfortunately for the waistline, cheese was a major ingredient). So I am getting back into the swing of things with my second visit to the Balkans. This region is fast becoming a favourite of mine and Bosnia and Herzigovina has served up a treat.
I know little of B & H and much of what I do comes from growing up during the Bosnian wars of the 1990s. As a 10 year old, you don't pay much attention to wars happening on the other side of the world, so I am still not entirely sure about who was fighting who and why. Still, upon hearing the name Bosnia and Herzegovina, I recall images of shelled streets, muddy refugees, and mass graves (it also conjures images of Eva Herzigova in a wonder bra so it's not all bad). Even before the wars of the 1990's, B & H had a tumultuous history. The nation was once part of the Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires before becoming part of the Kingdom of Serbia. In 1914, Sarajevo, the capital city of B & H, was the location of the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This event, in simple terms, is seen as the trigger that began World War I.
Essentially, the Austro-Hungarians were unhappy about their heir presumptive being blown up, and issued a letter to the Kingdom of Serbia (later Yugoslavia) with a number of demands. The Serbs were not cowed and mobilised their armies with the support of the Russians. The Austro-Hungarians then declared war which set off a domino effect of treaties. The Triple Alliance brought Germany and Italy into the fray for Austro-Hungary, while the Triple Entente dragged Britain and France in for the Russians.
After the wars, the region was part of communist Yugoslavia, and didn't gain independence until 1992. This was followed by 3 years of the confusing Balkan wars of my childhood memory. Since the end of the conflict B & H has seen a resurgence in tourism. There are some beautiful natural and architectural sites, world class ski fields (Sarajevo hosted the 1984 winter olympics), as well as the vibrant city of Sarajevo itself which has earned the nickname of 'Jerusalem of Europe' for it's multiculturalism. In fact the Virgin Mary herself is a frequent visitor to the B & H town of Medjugorje, appearing to six local Catholics at a set time every month, and sparking a pilgrimage of over 30 million people since 1981. Visitors often experience visions such as the sun spinning in the sky or changing colors and figures such as hearts and crosses around the sun. Now I don't want to discredit the believers, but someone should be checking which kind of mushrooms they are serving in their goulash.
Speaking of food (segue five!) this recipe was a winner. The cevapi (cha-vah-pee) is considered the national dish of B & H, and is a type of kebab with grilled mince meat. It is often served with Kajmak, a popular Bosnian cheese spread, and Avjar, an eggplant and capsicum relish.
500g Lean ground beef
500g Lean ground lamb
1 Yellow onion, finely chopped
3 Large cloves garlic, diced
4-5 Sprigs finally chopped parsley
1/4 Cup Hot water
1/2 Tsp Baking soda
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mix the meat, onion, garlic, and parsley in a bowl with the salt and pepper.
Add the baking soda to the water and then gently combine with the meat. It should remain course and loosely packed.
Put the meat mixture back in the fridge and let it sit for at least 2 hours, or overnight if possible. Once the meat has tenderised, pick of into little sausages about the size of a thumb. Cook under a grill until they are a deep brown colour.
1 1/2 Sticks salted butter (one stick is 1/4 pound or about 115g)
2 Tbsp Sour cream
4 Tbsp Ricotta cheese
250g (approx) Cream cheese
Soften the butter and cream cheese, then beat with electric mixer. Add the sour cream and ricotta to the butter and beat it until it’s creamy. Salt, hot sauce or paprika may be added if
2 Large eggplants
6 Red Capsicum
1 Sweet onion (brushed in oil)
2-3 Cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper
1/2 Cup Olive oil
Note: Parsley, basil, or chilli flakes can be added as a variation
Roast eggplant and onion at 250 c for about 30 min, turning until skin blackens and blisters. Once roasted, put in a bowl and cover with cling wrap to let steam and loosen the skins. Peel off the skin and discard, along with the seeds.
Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend to desired consistency.
Wrap the Cevapi in pita bread and add the Ajvar and Kajmak, along with chopped red onion and desired salads.
Apologies for the less than stellar photography.