I've got to know Bosnia pretty well over the last 15 years, spent a lot of time there, laughed, cried and celebrated with so many people and finally bought a flat there.
The food and culture interested and intrigued me from the begining - I can still remember the first meal I shared with a refugee family 15 years ago!
The country had been fairly isolated and 'unspoilt' pre-war and most people had a strong connection with the land - even sophisticated Sarajevans often had a weekend cottage with fruit trees and a bit of land.
The years of Turkish occupation have left their stamp on the country in so many ways, including the ubiquitous 'Turkish' coffee but the food is also quite Slavic in other ways with meat, cabbage and potatoes
The climate as ever is a stong influence with long hot summers which allow the growing of 'mediterranean' vegetables like peppers, aubergines and tomatoes but there are also long cold winters which mean that many foods have to be preserved through the winter. This can lead to combinations strange to us like piclkled peppers stuffed with saurkraut!!
Before I rattle on too long, has anyone been to Bosnia or other parts of the former Yugoslavia?
Do you know any Bosnian dishes? Burek? Sarma? Cevapcicci? Ajvar? Pekmes? Grah? Where do I begin?
Just to whet your appetite I'll tell you about Borek
This is a kind of Bosnian filo pastry pie which was introduced by the Turks and has similar variations in Greece.
It is widely eaten in Bosnia, perhaps 5 times a week by some people. It's served in the best restaurants and eaten from paper in the streets like chips. Sometimes it's like a filler course equivalent to pasta, sometimes the main when served with salad, sometimes eaten cold at pic-nics
Their filo pastry is much nicer than the frozen, cardboard stuff we have here but takes a bit of practice to master. It's quite a bit of work to make but is so loved it was even made in the cramped conditions of refugee camps where many would have resorted to simple 'convenience' foods
Basically an unyeasted dough is kneaded up with flour, water and a little oil then allowed to rest.
It is then worked like a pizza base to a circle often with a long, thin rolling pin more like a broomstick then laid onto a tablecloth where it is systematically stretched til you can read a newspaper through it ( that bit needs practice! )
Alitle oilis spread on it then the filling spread along one edge. The pastry is turn over then rolled by lifting the tablecloth. After a few rolls a section is cut off and, looking like a long sausage, coiled in a baking tray ( different regions coil in different ways)
Several 'sausages' can be made from one sheet and when the baking tray is full it's splashed with a little oil and baked in a hot oven for perhaps 20 mins
Most of the village folk and some townies still use a wood stove and most agree it gives a better result
When removed from the oven the borek is liberally splashed with hot water ( or milk for cheese version ) and covered with a tea towel for trn minutes. This is the trick to give a pastry which is crisp on top and soft underneath - our first efforts missed this and the result was almost too hard to eat!
The filling for Borek would be minced beef with a little garlic and/or onion and sometimes flavoured with a little smoked meat.
The cheese version ( Sirnica ) uses soft white cheese with a little egg
The spinach version ( could be nettles in spring ) has some cheese and is excellent for vegetarians
The peasants version ( krompirska ) has tiny cubes of seasoned potato with a little onion and is very tasty
It can also be made with cucumber, marrow or courgette
A Bosnian/English couple go in for 'Fusion' Borek with turkey or curry
MMMMMMMMmmmm making me homesick for Bosnia
Fascinating stuff, Lovage. I adore filo pastry by any name.
Do you happen to know of any Bosnian cuisine restaurants in the UK? Or where we might be able to buy Borak?
Interestingly, a Polish restaurant has just opened in Newmarket. Many shops display notices in Polish. It's a sign of the times and the introduction of other cuisines can only be a good thing.
Maybe in this thread or elsewhere, I would love to know how you came to spend time in Bosnia (if it's not too personal) - and wheter you lived there through the war.
Also - what does a typical breakfast consiist of in Bosnia?
Never knowingly underfed
Don't know of any Bosnian restaurants but I can buy some Bosnian foods at a multi-cultural supermarket in Leeds
Bosnians do often do breakfast as such - often it's just a few coffees to wake up the system. Sometimes accompanied by a Sljvovic (plum Brandy ) to 'cleanse the system'
Often theres a second breakfast or early lunch once youhave been up a few hours - but nothing to compete with your fry-up
This is a great thread. Great story too, Lovage. I've been to Yugoslavia but that was many years ago and having stayed in a cheap hotel I have to admit that the food left a lot to be desired since it was made for the tourist industry so was not representative of the cuisine.
I'd be interested to read more if you are willing.
I'll try that again!
One of the things we adopted from Bosnia and are rarely without now is Ajvar
It is a red pepper relish/ puree/ sauce used as a relish with barbeques or as an addition to soups, casseroles etc
I came accross it being made at someones house and it was a sight I will never forget - a huge black pot being stirred on a huge black wood stove but the contents were so vivid orange red it gave the efect of a volcano!
I noted the recipe then:--
10kg Red peppers, flamed and skinned
1kg Aubergine, peeled and chopped
1 litre oil
a few cloves of garlic
50ml concentrated vinegar - added at the end
The peppers are chopped, mixed with the other ingredients and cooked down to make a homogenous puree then bottled
It's wonderfull stuff, the colour and taste lift many dishes
Sadly it's uneconomic to make here because of the cost of the peppers - over there peppers are grown in every garden and can be bought on the markets for about 40p a kilo. Folks there cannot understand how we can live with peppers costing 40p ( and more ) each!
I used to bring boxes of the stuff home with me but now we can buy it in Leeds, even choosing from Bosnian, Macedonian or Bulgarian brands
If you see any - grab a jar and try it!
Wow, that sounds amazing, Lovage! Just imagining how it looks and tastes is making me hungry ...
Have to say I had a poor opinion of Yugoslavian cuisine after spending a few weeks in Croatia just before war broke out. The food in both homes and restaurants was dire, shops very poorly supplied, but everyone ate MEAT, loads of it, grilled or roasted to a state of cremation and then served with a blob of greyish tinned veg. Yuk. The fish was good but no-one except very rich people could afford to buy it. We ended up living on squid because it was cheap, plentiful, and simply cooked! I am sure things have improved now, but I prefer French food culture ...
Re-igniting the thread ......
In August/September time, the red peppers in France are good value, and it is then that I make
Sweet Pepper Jelly: makes about 1.5 kg
1 kg red peppers, cored and de-seeded
1.25 kg sugar
150 ml cider vinegar
150 ml lemon juice
175 ml pectin stock**
Blend the peppers until finely chopped in a processor/blender, keeping flesh and juice
Empty into a large pan with the sugar and vinegar.
Bring to the boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved
Remove from the heat and set aside for 30 - 45 minutes
Add the lemon juice and bring back to the boil, stirring frquently.
Boil rapidly for 2 minutes
Stir in the pectin stock and strain through a nylon jelly bag or two thicknesses of muslin in a sieve
Collect in a heated bowl, skim, pour into small, hot sterilized jars and cover
Serve this delicious, unusual jelly with cold meats, especially lamb and chicken, as well as prawns and cream cheese
N.B. Do not use a thick flannel or felt jelly bag or the jelly will begin to set before it has all run through
Many friends now request this when I disappear off to France in the summer .......
Oops! **Forgot the pectin stock details .......
Usually made from cooking apples, but gooseberries or redcurrants can also be used
This is a basic recipe:
Put 600 ml water plus 1 kg fruit in a pan
bring slowly to boil, then simmer for about 1 hour until soft
Strain, and put into sterilized jars, and use within 4 months
(I freeze mine till needed)
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