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Old 09-04-2007, 10:34 PM   #1
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Balkan mix

This thread is for the people to whom I have promised more information about Balkan cuisine. I have already seen many questions about Balkan food around here, but they are rather scattered, so I suggest all the people with good Balkan recipes to join here.

Features: Balkan cuisine can't be described with one or two words. It's influented by a mix of different cuisines (Greek, Turkish, Magyuar, Austrian, Mediterranean) and it differs from one regia to another, but it's very rich and often very spicy. It's not famous in the world, but foreign people who come here usually are delighted with Balkan food, which is a kind of advertisment by itself.

Having relatives in almost all the Balkan countries, my husband and me have turned our kitchen into a little Balkan "cooking studio", so I guess we can help with many recipes, of different traditions. There is a Bosnian food thread here already, so I will be careful not to repeat recipes, but I would like to include Bosnian dishes here as well.

Hope you will find this thread useful!

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Old 09-04-2007, 11:35 PM   #2
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Just tonight, I saw someone's question about Croatian version of sarma. Before I write down the recipe, a small explanation:

Balkan sarma is quite different than Turkish sarma. While Turkish sarma is usually made of grapevine leaves with meat stuffing, with addition of yogurt or sour milk/ sour cream, in Balkan it's called "sarmica" (little sarma) and real sarma is something else. It's made of pickled cabbage leaves. There are two essential versions of Balkan sarma - one is milder and it's usually made in north of Croatia, north-east of Bosnia and northern Serbia. The second one is really spicy and caracheristic for southern parts, especially Serbia. The difference is in stuffing and the way of cooking.

For both version you need pickled cabbage leaves (my usual measure is around 50 leaves if they are big, or 80-100 if they are small). If you can't buy or make them, you can use fresh cabbage leaves, just slightly boiled in water with some salt and vinegar, so that you can roll them, but the result will never be the same. So, pickled leaves. If they are too thick and rigid, you can make them softer by using your kitchen mallet. If you prefer milder version, you should use larger leaves. For the spicy version, small leaves are preferrable; also, you can cut large leaves in two along the main vein. If the main vain is too thick, you can also make it thinner by using a knife.

The meat for stuffing (700g-1 kg): you can use minced beef, minced pork or minced mutton, but it's best if you combine two different kinds, depending on your taste. Except meat, you will need:

- rice (one teacup - up to 100 ml)
- powdered sweet paprika (couple of teaspoons)
- finely ground black pepper (according to taste)
- onion (one bulb for the mild version, and 3-4 of bulbs for the spicy version)
- several cloves of garlic (for the spicy version only)
- 200-300 g bacon for the mild version, 400 for the spicy version (except if you use mutton - it doesn't go well with bacon)
- 3-4 carrots
- oil (I think 2 dl will be enough, I never measure it)
- 1/2 kg smoked ribs or smoked meat
- salt
- 3-4 teaspoons of flour (for the mild version)
- 2 eggs
- 4 bay (laurel) leaves
- optional: some parsley leaves

Filling for the mild version: Cut the onion and carrots into very tiny cubes. Fry them just a minute or two in 1 dl of oil (the rest of oil you will need later). Mix all that with meat in a separate bowl (without further frying); add eggs and just a pinch or two of salt, and few pinches of black pepper. Add rice and knead the mass. This version is better with less beef and more mutton or pork.

Filling for the spicy version: Cut the onion, carrots and half of the bacon into tiny cubes, and fry them in the whole amount of oil until the onion is golden and the bacon is golden-brown. Add paprika, meat (for this version, the best combination is 40 percent of minced pork and 60 percent of beef) and fry it until greyish, so that all the meat separates; add several pinches of salt, several teaspoons of black pepper, finely cut parsley leaves and garlic, add rice, and fry all that for several more minutes. When it gets cold, add two eggs.

Rolling: place the cabbage leaf onto your left palm. Put some stuffing in the middle, using a small spoon (I use one that is bigger than teaspoon, but smaller than tablespoon.) Frst fold one brim along the longer side of the leaf. Then roll it starting from the shorter side. Craddle it in your cupped hand (it mustn't depart) and tuck the last free brim inside.

Pot: you will need a big and deep pot for sarma. Oil the bottom of the pot and cover it with several leaves (you can use torn leaves or remains of too large leaves.) Start putting sarmas in circles, from outside towards center. They MUST stand upright, and the tucked brim must be down, for otherwise the filling can escape. When you cover the bottom, you repeat the process in next "storey". If you have some space left in the middle, fill it with smoked ribs/meat. If not, you will cut meat/ribs and put it on the top, as well as sliced bacon. Stuck laurel leaves between sarmas. Add water so that it just covers all that, not more. If you have chosen the spicy version, you can use the pickle that the cabbage was in, together with water. As sarma is inclined to run off the pot (I am not kidding), you should use a heat-resistant plate or lid with the hole in the middle to press the contents of the pot. Only then you can cover the pot (but leave some space so that air can go in and out); turn on your range... and cook it. Depending on cabbage, it can last from 1.5 hour to 3 hours, but it's really not demanding, you only have to add some water from time to time.


For the milder version, you will use another half of the oil to fry some flour and powdered paprika; when sarma is nearly cooked, add it together with some water and let it simmer for 10-15 more minutes. Serve it in a big bowl together with its sauce.

For the spicy version: when sarma is cooked, wait until it's almost cold. Take a wide pan - earthenware if possible. Arrange sarmas in it (upright again), together with smoked meat, but the sliced bacon must be on the top. Put it into the oven (not preheated if you use crockery) and let it bake until the water has almost evaporated, and sarma becomes brownish on tops. The bacon will be almost like fried. Serve it in the pan it was baked in.

A small note: there are only a few Balkan dishes that need as much attention as sarma. So don't loose your spirits, please. But I am sure you won't regret if you try any of these two recipes. Enjoy! :)
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Old 09-05-2007, 12:01 AM   #3
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Pickled cabbage

Traditional way for the pickled cabbage is too complicated - demands special room and conditions - so I am suggesting another traditional recipe for the "fast pickled cabbage", which is equally good; the difference is only in the fact that the second one you must use immediately - it can't last.

Take only as much cabbages as you will need. Remove the outer leaves and scoop out the "root". Prepare a deep pot with water and let it boil. Put the cabbage (one by one) into the boiling water, and turn it upside-down after several seconds; the whole process last up to a minute. After parboiling it, separate the leaves while they are still warm. Pack them, one atop another, into a big jar (or several big jars.) When the jars are full, sprinkle the cabbage leaves with some salt, put the stump of the bread into each jar (it will iniciate fermentation) and pour the water the cabbage was boiled in. Leave it in a very warm place for one day, then you can remove it to some other place, but it mustn't be cold. Next day, drain the water from the jar(s) and pour it inside again. Repeat the process for one more day. On 3rd or 4th day, it will be perfect for any dish, including sarma.

IMPORTANT NOTE: don't close jars with lids! Just cover them with a piece of gauze or any thin cloth. Otherwise, fermentation will fail and you will get putrid cabbage instead of the pickled one.
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Old 09-05-2007, 01:00 AM   #4
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Thank you for sharing your recipes with us. These are fascinating to read and I'm sure delicious to eat. Looking forward to any others you like to share as well.
HEAVEN is Cade, Ethan,Carson, and Olivia,Alyssa,Gianna
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Old 09-05-2007, 02:02 AM   #5
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Oooops, I noticed I had made some rough mistakes (not "stuck" but "tuck" and not "tablespoons of black pepper") - I hope I have corrected everything that was inmportant. And I apologize because of my mistakes, for I am heedless sometimes, and English is not my mother tongue besides. I hope you will accept my apologies.

I am "punishing" myself with one much easier recipe; it's excellent for the cold days which are to come soon. :)

Baked beans with pickled paprika and leek - an old village recipe

You will need:
1/2 kg of big, white beans
1/2 kg of pickled paprika (red is better, for green can be bitter) - without stems and seed
1/2 kg of leek (only the white part of it)
ground black pepper
ground red hot chilly pepper
garlic (as many cloves as you wish! sometimes I put the whole bulb.)

Boil the beans in a big amount of water. When it is cooked (but really cooked), drain it (but do not spill the water; you will need it!)

Cut the leek into thin slices. Fry it on a lot of oil (up to 2 dl) until it's soft and slightly golden (but not golden-brown, so be careful!)

Add sliced pickled paprika (you can also add a bit of vinegar the paprika was in) and fry a bit more.

Mix it with beans, add salt, black pepper, chilly and finely chopped garlic. Put it into a big and not too deep pan - I prefer old-fashioned stoneware (ceramic) pans again. Add some water (now you see why you saved the "bean-water") so that it is not dry - I never measure it, maybe one liter or so. Put it into the slightly preheated oven and leave it there on 220 C until it gets golden-brown or really brown crust. You will enjoy eating it while hot, but many people prefer it cold.

Rcommendation for a salad: chopped pickled cabbage with some oil and roughly ground hot red pepper, together with seeds.
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Old 10-04-2007, 01:40 PM   #6
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i love reading about recipes that i have made so many times, but then see how other people make it, then try it out. keep it up
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Old 10-16-2007, 04:47 AM   #7
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Love this. One dish that we had in Slovenia and friends of ours had in Turkey was a roll of something like philo dough, rolled with either cheese or a meat stuffing. I (somewhat successfully) recreated it at home (for the cheese I used a mash of feta, yogurt and cream cheese, which wasn't the same but close enough; for the meat I used some ground lamb and ground turkey). I'm over-simplifying, I used a lot of different herbs and spices. I haven't tried it in years (it is called burek), gee, guess I should again. Another dish that is common to the area (yes, I know Slovenia isn't the Balkans, but many dishes are the same) is potica.
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Old 10-16-2007, 06:32 AM   #8
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I admit I don't know what "potica" is (I suppose it's a local name, maybe I know it under some other name), but burek is a pride of our countries, I agree. :) And there are so many different variants of it that I don't know from where to start. I usually make it of fresh dough (and in three different ways that I learnt in Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia), but you can make rather good burek using dough sheets from the supermarket as well. Unfortunately, I don't know how burek is made in Slovenia, but these two fillings are universal:

1) Cheese (white, fat and sour; you can add sour cream, but avoid yogurt).

2) Cut 2-3 onions in tiny cubes and fry them till soft, with just a hint of golden colour. Add minced meat (beef, lamb or a mix of beef and pork) and fry it (stirring all the time) for a couple minutes more. Add ground black pepper - and the secret x-ingredient of all the Balkan food - I mean "Vegeta" or any similar mix of salt and spices. Some people prefer to add an egg or two, or some sour cream, but it's not the original recipe.

If you mean "twirl" burek, then you roll the sheets and make small coils (don't forget to sprinkle each sheet with oil befor you put the filling!) and while you bake them (it usually lasts around 30 minutes on 200 C) prepare some water (up to 1/2 l), add several tablespoons of oil and a pinch of salt; then let it boil. When burek start getting a golden crust, take it out and slowly pour the prepared water all over it (more sprinkling than just pouring, so that you make it uniquely wet). Put it back and bake it until golden brown (I use to increase the heat in that part, let's say to 220 C). That's the most common Bosnian variant. In Serbia, it's made "dry", with just a small addition of water.
Note: in Bosnia in Serbia we make it also with potatoes (with or without sour cream), or with a mix of cheese and eggs, or with grated young pumpkins, but then it's usually not called burek. Traditional burek is only with meat or cheese. But I suggest you to try, especially the potato variant (you make it in the same way as with meet, but instead of the meat use the same amount of potatoes, cut in tiny cubes; don't forget a lot of black pepper! - it's delicious, especially if you add some sour cream).

But I suggest you to try Macedonian burek; you will need thicker dough sheets for it (and much better if you can make them yourself - you need just flour, water and some salt, and a rollpin, of course; for an average burek, you need 10 or 12 round leaves, slightly bigger than your pan). Now you have to prepare the mix of boiled water, oil and salt before you start making it. (I like to put some sop of the roasted meat instead of oil, it makes it even better, and that's what they usually do in burek shops.) If you use home made dough, you will put some filling between each two leaves. If you use philo dough from he supermarket, use 2-3 leaves for the each layer. The first sheet must be spread over, without "wrinkling" (but don't cut off the surplus, you will need it later for the "packing"). The rest of it you know - one layer of dough (make it "wrinkled"), one layer of filling, but this time you will sprinkle each of the layers with boiled water you prepared. When you put the last layer of filling, flap the brim of the lowest layer all around. Then put the last sheet atop and "pack" its brim downwards - just tuck it into the pan. After that you just bake it, without any special treatment.
Note 1: when it's baked, you will turn it over from the pan, that's how it's usually served, upwards-down, and cut in triangles, like a birthday cake.
Note 2: in Macedonia, you can find that kind of burek with many different fillings - like spinach with some cheese, kashkaval, or even sweet variants like grated apples. And all of them are great! :)

But now I am curious to know what "potica" is. Can you describe it?
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Old 10-17-2007, 04:54 AM   #9
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The potica that I've had, and that I've tried to cook, is a yeast dough, whereas burek is more a pastry (i.e., philo type) dough. The burek was always savory, the potica sweet. The method sort of the same ... a thin layer of dough with the filling spread on it, then rolled and baked. I've only made each a few times, and that was years ago (my husband is now diabetic, so I don't make these dishes because it is more food than the two of us can eat).
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