Balkan Recipes

The companion recipes to Cinda Chavich’s article, My Balkan Food Dreams,  in the Sept|Oct 2022 issue of EAT

AJVAR (Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant Dip)


A wonderful vegetarian condiment to slather on sandwiches or serve with mici.

This recipe is excerpted from Macedonia by Katerina Nitsou Copyright © 2021. Photographs by Oliver Fitzgerald. Published by Interlink Publishing.

1 medium eggplant

6 red bell peppers

¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

½ teaspoon white sugar

1 ½  teaspoons kosher salt

½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Using a fork, pierce the eggplant skin a few times all around.

Roast the peppers and eggplant over a charcoal grill or a gas flame until the skins are completely charred and blistered. Alternatively broil them in the oven (directly on the rack or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper), rotating every 15 minutes until charred, 30 to 45 minutes.

Place the roasted vegetables into a paper bag or a heatproof container. Seal and set aside for 20 minutes until cool.

Peel off and discard the skin and stems from the eggplant and peppers, and remove the pepper seeds. Coarsely chop the flesh and set aside.

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat and saut. the onion until very soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat.

Add the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and black pepper to the pot, and stir in the pepper and eggplant pulp.

Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the mixture to a coarse paste with a slightly chunky texture. Be careful not to completely puree the mixture. Store in a glass container in the refrigerator. Serves 4 to 6





A typical street or pub food in Romania (and known as cevapi in Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and other Balkan countries) these garlicky little skinless sausages are grilled on the barbecue or in a hot pan, then served with mustard. Flatbread, ajvar, sour cream or yogurt, and onions make a traditional accompaniment, too.

A recipe from Carpathia: Food from the Heart of Romania by Irina Georgescu (Interlink Publishing).

300 g (11 oz) ground beef

500 g (1lb 2oz) ground pork

200 g (7oz) pork back fat or lardo, diced and briefly minced in a food processor

3 slices of white bread, soaked in milk

1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed to a paste

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sour cream

75 ml (3 fl oz) cold concentrated beef stock made from ½ stock cube dissolved in 75ml (3 fl oz) hot water

2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil for frying


Ask your butcher to mince the meat together with the pork back fat for you, so you won’t have to mince it separately at home. The fat is key to the juiciness and texture of the mici – it can be made with less but the texture will be slightly drier.

Combine all the ingredients, except for the oil, together in a bowl (or food processor). Knead by hand to an almost bread-like dough which resembles a paste. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. With wet hands shape 60–70g (2 ½ –3oz) of the mixture into a chunky little sausage, about 10cm (4 inches) long and 3 cm (1 inch) thick. Place on a greased tray. Repeat with the remaining mixture, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or, ideally, overnight.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat and cook the sausages on all sides, turning them six times in total, until browned on the outside and soft and juicy in the middle. Alternatively, cook on a hot barbecue, brushing with a little oil first. Makes 15-20.





My grandmother made strudel with paper-thin dough she pulled into sheets by hand and I use frozen filo pastry. But this recipe from Katerina Nitsou and her new book Macedonia, The Cookbook intrigued me, with its thicker pastry, made with sour cream. Nitsou says the strudel can be made with any stewed fruit, like apples, cherries or plums, making it a great autumn dessert.

Excerpted from Macedonia by Katerina Nitsou Copyright © 2021. Photographs by Oliver Fitzgerald. Published by Interlink Publishing.


3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting

1 cup (225 g) cold unsalted butter, grated

1⁄2 cup (120 ml) sour cream

1 egg yolk
1 whole egg, whisked, for egg wash


4 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon flour
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) brandy
1⁄2 cup (70 g) light brown sugar

1⁄4 cup (40 g) chopped dried apricots
1⁄4 cup (30 g) chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
3–4 medium ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large bowl, use your fingers to mix the flour and butter until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Use a spatula to fold in the sour cream and egg yolk. Lightly dust your work surface with flour and knead the mixture just until it comes together smoothly. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 5 by 10 inches (13 by 25 cm). Tightly wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

When the dough has been chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Make the filling: In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Slowly mix in the flour and stir until you have a paste (roux). Add the brandy, sugar, apricots, walnuts, cinnamon, and salt, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Fold in the pears, and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle 12 by 16 inches (30 by 40 cm) and 1⁄4-inch (6 mm) thick. Brush the top of the dough with some of the egg wash. Place the filling in a thick line down the center of
the rectangle. Fold each side of the dough over the filling, making sure the dough overlaps to create a seal. Carefully flip the strudel over and place it on the baking sheet, seam side down. Cut slits into the top of dough about

1 inch (2.5 cm) apart and brush the dough with the remaining egg wash. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.



Zucchini Fritters


Excerpted from Macedonia by Katerina Nitsou Copyright © 2021. Photographs by Oliver Fitzgerald. Published by Interlink Publishing.

Serves 4 to 6

1 lb 5 oz (600 g) zucchini

(3 medium), grated

1 medium starchy potato, such as russet, peeled and grated 4 scallions, thinly sliced

¾ cup (115 g) grated feta cheese

⅓ cup (40 g) all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill

¼ teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs, whisked

Vegetable oil, for frying

In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, potato, scallions, and cheese.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, dill, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the zucchini mixture and toss to coat. Fold the eggs into the zucchini mixture until fully incorporated.

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until it begins to shimmer.

Without crowding the pan, drop large spoonfuls of zucchini mixture into the oil and gently press down with the back of the spoon to flatten. Fry the fritters for 5 to 6 minutes on each side until golden brown, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Repeat with the remaining zucchini mixture, adding about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan for each batch. Serve immediately

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