Traditional Slavic cuisine is considered to be very versatile. Warm and rich soups, tasty meat dishes and sauces, spicy spreads and many more are made to be loved as they were supposed to provide energy for field labourers troughout history. The cuisine of Southern Slavs, also known as Balkan cuisine, is heavily influenced by the Ottomanic and Austro-Hungarian empires, as you will see in some examples brought to us by our member Ivana Svarthelionis Lazić. This feature is due to centuries of political relations with aforementioned monarchies, and they are, basically, kitchen awesomeness for anyone to enjoy – so if you have an interest or opportunity to try some of them – go ahead and discover something new!
Widely known among Balkanians and profoundly respected and beloved by the most of them, sarma is an example of a hearty and satiable meal preferred in winter season. It consists of ground meat (usually pork and veal and sometimes bits of smoked bacon), rice grains and spices rolled in a sauerkraut leaf. When rolled, sarma is placed in a pot, covered with a stock mixed with tomato juice and spices and cooked for a couple of hours to reach the perfect flavor and a very well known texture.
2# Punjena paprika
Punjena paprika (eng. poonyena paprika, stuffed paprika) is analogous to sarma – except, instead of sauerkraut leaves, the mixture of meat is stuffed in peppers and cooked in a similar way. Usually, it is served warm and with mashed potatoes. It is very hard to find a Southern Slav who has never tried this meal, and impossible to find a person among them who has never even heard of it. 🙂
Creamy texture and rich lightly sour flavor of kajmak (kaymak), fermented dairy product originated from the Middle East, are the main reasons why this cream is very popular. It can be added to many meals, spreaded over a piece of bread or pancakes, or eaten with a spoon. Take a big one, you won’t regret it.
Popular and delicious ajvar (ayvar) is a type of spread made of baked peppers and eggplants with spices. Most people would eat it on bread, but if you are looking for something different, try Ciganski odrezak (Gypsy steak) which is basically a piece of meat thoroughly covered with ajvar and baked. It can be mild and sweet-ish or it can be very strong and hot. Of course – you have to try them all.
Famous ćevapi (chevapee) are perceived as Southern Slav’s fast food. They came from Islamic regions and are traditionally made of ground mutton and veal meat, formed in pieces that remind of fingers and grilled. And also, you won’t make a mistake if you serve them with the mentioned kajmak or ajvar.
If you are looking for a full kick, knock yourselves out and serve them with raw onions. You will smell like a Balkanian railroad worker, but you will be happy as a child.
A perfect example of a tasty authentic meat based soup, influenced by Hungarian cuisine. Perfect čobanac (chobanats) besides pork and veal contains and is enriched with deer and/or boar meat, which give it a wild-ish note. All meat is chopped in fine pieces, seasoned with spices (sweet pepper, garlic, hot pepper…) and vegetables and cooked until tender in a cauldron above an open fire if you are making it the traditional way. Of course, you can also cook it in the apartment on a regular stove. Just remember, it is supposed to be cooked in large amounts, for at least half a dozen of people you love. If you want to enter the realm in which you are celebrated as the God of Kitchen among your friends – add some dried porcini mushrooms. They release their intense smell and flavor, and there is no one who can resist a bowl od čobanac with ’em.
Imagine a Spartan type of bread, hard, plain and simple, made of corn flour and only lightly salted and you have imagined proja (proya). This bread is a symbol of simplicity bordering with post WW2 poverty, reflecting life of poor peasants. If you kick someone with proja in the head, you should be penalized – it is so hard and heavy that it should be carried with a weapons permit, but – sometimes there is nothing like a big bowl of proja cuts with milk or kefir. Also, works perfectly with a few spoons of ajvar or served with čobanac or sarma.
This meal, heavily influenced by Hungarian cuisine, seems to be one of the symbols of summer for Southern Slavs. It can be made in 15 minutes, it’s quite tasty and most people adore it. To make sataraš you need peppers, tomatoes, onions, zucchini or eggplants – chop them finely and stir fry them until soft and serve witch cooked rice, barley, potatoes or pasta.
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